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Autumn 2019: Caterpillars & Foliage Undersides

Caterpillars are fascinating.

Consider the camouflage trick of the peppered moth caterpillar: To protect itself from bird predators it can change its color to white, green or brown to blend in with the bark color of the trees it feeds on. According to a recent study, these caterpillars can actually sense the color of the tree’s bark with their skin as well as with their eyes.

The monarch butterfly employs a different defense against predatory birds. It has developed a unique immunity to the toxins contained in milkweed plants. Its caterpillars feed only on these plants, store the milkweed toxins in their bodies, and then transfer the protective poison to the adult butterflies. Birds have learned to give monarchs a wide berth. I was delighted to find a gaggle of monarch caterpillars feeding on my recently planted swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Photo below.

copyright 2019 — Lois Sheinfeld

[Note: For more information about swamp milkweed see post of Feb. 2, “2019: A Choice Selection of Garden Plants.” And when you need an ID, the illustrated field guide Caterpillars of Eastern North America (Princeton University Press 2005) is an excellent reference.]

In Autumn, migrating monarchs and other butterflies visit the fire engine red flowers of my favorite Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’.’

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

Along with Dahlias, containers of colorful mums provide eye-popping appeal.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And my Autumn garden is enriched by a group of time-tested shade plants with decorative red and purple foliage undersides:

Begonia grandis ‘Alba’ is a low-growing herbaceous perennial that produces masses of charming snowy-white flowers on pink-flushed stems in September/October. But it was the red undersides of the foliage that captivated garden writer Alan Lacy. “If placed where it catches the last low rays of the sun from behind” he said, “B. grandis offers a sight that is one of the epiphanies of Autumn.” My plants thrive in moist, rich soil. Photos below.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Heuchera ‘Stainless Steel’ is another low-growing, shade-loving perennial. Its showy silvery leaves with  an eggplant-purple reverse are beautiful until frost. Yet for me, its greatest asset is its longevity. I’ve been seduced by countless orange-pink and russet-brown heucheras — so-called perennials — that didn’t survive more than one or two seasons. H. ‘Stainless Steel’ has flourished in my organic garden for more than a decade. Hardiness counts. Photo below.

copyright 2019 — Jessica Amsterdam

 

Henna Coleus.  Any celebration of shade plants with vibrantly colored undersides must include award-winning Henna Coleus.  As my loyal readers know, I’ve been singing the praises of this dazzling annual for years. Unlike other Coleus that are quick to give up the ghost at summer’s end, Henna would be happy to flaunt her ruffles at your Thanksgiving table. Photos below.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, my Autumn garden has been graced with an ever-increasing number of Cornus kousa dogwood volunteers  displaying extraordinary blood-red, over-sized fruit. Photo below.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

And I think I know who to thank for that.

copyright 2019 – Jessica Amsterdam

Summer 2019: Plants & Travel

Isn’t nature amazing? In Australia, a nightshade plant (Solanum plastisexum) has confounded scientists: Every time they studied the plant, the sex of its purple flowers had changed. Sometimes the flowers were female, sometimes male, and sometimes a mix of both. As one scientist observed about the unpredictable sexual expression of this very unique plant, “no one has been able to understand what exactly it’s doing, and how it’s doing it, and why it’s doing it.” (Hmm, could it just be showing off?)

No problem predicting what human manipulators of nature — a/k/a plant hybridizers — intend. They know exactly what they are doing. They are producing beautiful, seductive plants that weak-willed plant freaks, like me, will find absolutely impossible to resist.

One day between errands I had some free time and aimlessly wandered about the aisles of a local garden center — just looking mind you — when I saw Lupinus ‘Westcountry Manhattan Lights’. One look and I was besotted.  Photo below of this bi-colored beauty — in my garden.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

I’ve never before been tempted by Lupines. Granted, they are deer-resistant and attract pollinators and hummingbirds — but the plants hate humid, hot weather. We have humid, hot weather a-plenty. Ergo, no Lupines! Until now.

Lupines appreciate well-drained acid, moist, organically rich soil in sun or part shade. The flowers open bottom to top and it is generally recommended that spent flower stems be removed if you want a second round of bloom. I removed all but one because I wanted to see the seed pods. Glad I did. Photo below.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

My plant did not send up new flower stems. Was it because I left one dead stem standing? Maybe not. In her popular, informative book, We Made a Garden, British garden writer Margery Fish advised that the entire plant had to be cut to the ground, foliage included, or “there will be no second blooming.” I’m inclined to agree with her. Fish was an experienced hands-on gardener who wrote about plants she grew. (And, despite its name, L. ‘Westcountry Manhattan Lights’ was hybridized in England.)

 

I’ll be glad if the plant survives. Lupines like cold weather — they survive and thrive in northern New Hampshire (Zone 4). When my husband and I visited NH in June, we were thrilled to see fields of wild Lupine backed by the White Mountains.  Moreover, Mother Nature matched the bi-color beauty of Manhattan Lights when she partnered wild buttercups with the lupines. Photos below.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

Here are a few more highlights of our NH trip:

In the town of Bethlehem, we enjoyed a horse-drawn wagon tour of The Rocks Estate — a vast private property that is now a Christmas tree farm managed by the non-profit Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The first photo below is a view of the property and the second is of the handsome Belgian horses, Bert & Boomer, and the horses’ owner and driver Bruce Streeter.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

On the charming main street in Bethlehem we found out-of-print treasures in the vintage bookstore Beannacht, and we enjoyed a yummy outdoor lunch at the bistro a few doors down.

We were dazzled by the range and quality of the work of local artists displayed for sale at the League of N.H. Craftsmen Fine Craft Gallery located on main street in the town of Littleton. And it was here that we met Mortimer Moose — who followed us home. Photo below.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

I could go on and on. New Hampshire is a place of exceptional natural beauty, artistic endeavor and hospitality. Best times to visit are Summer and Fall.

 

As Autumn fast approaches, I’d like to look back and share some of my favorite Summer performers:

Geranium macrorrhizum

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

This easy-care ground cover’s foliage looks this way (photo above) for the entire Summer, even in dry shade. And it has been reliably perennial, despite heat, humidity, and topsy-turvy dramatic shifts in temperature. The showy magenta flowers in May are a bonus.

 

Kalmia latifolia ‘Carol’ (Mountain Laurel)

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

For flower-power in early Summer you can’t do better than the native evergreen shrub Mountain Laurel . It is winter-hardy to zone 6, has excellent deer-resistance and blooms well in shade. Unfortunately, too often the foliage looks as though it’s infected with spotted plague. But the cultivar Carol is the exception. Her dark green foliage is largely disease free. And the sharp color difference between bud and flower creates a very showy bi-color display. To ensure flowering every year, as soon as the flowers fade, remove the seed heads.

[Cautionary note: If Carol is planted too close to a spotted offender, she may succumb as well. And if the deer are starving, they may eat toxic Mountain Laurel foliage even though it will make them sick.]

 

Heliotropium arborescens (Heliotrope White)

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

Many years ago, I would always fill a container with the vanilla-scented annual Heliotrope White. Yet, I have not planted any for decades. Why? Don’t know. These things just happen. Then this Spring, when I saw the plant at my local garden club’s May sale it brought back fond memories and I grabbed a few pots. They bloomed all Summer — and haven’t stopped yet. And the delicious vanilla scent is intoxicating. The bees think so too. Thank you Bettina and Marie.

 

Rhododendron prunifolium (Plumleaf Azalea)

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

This large, deciduous, native Azalea is a hardy, late-summer star, reliably producing significant numbers of lovely orange flowers every year.  Nothing short of a show-stopper. In my organic garden the shrub has been disease free, and after more than two decades is about 13 feet tall. Blooms well in shade.

 

[Note: Hard to believe that Scott Aker is still recommending glyphosate to home gardeners. (The American Gardener, July/August 2019, pp. 40-41). Consider my post of January 18, 2018, “Jan/Feb 2018: Toxic Chemical Alert”, and the recent multi-million dollar court judgment against Monsanto and its cancer-linked glyphosate herbicide Roundup. When will Scott Aker stop playing Russian roulette with American lives?]

March/April 2019: Early Spring

The calendar read Spring but the garden was having none of it. Warm December breezes seduced Forsythia, Spring’s herald, into untimely bloom — which was then zapped by Mother Nature’s icy hand. So now the remaining buds, exercising extreme caution, were shut tight.

Thankfully, daffodils and the deliciously fragrant flowering shrubs Pieris japonica and Sarcococca hookeriana humilis stepped up and saved the day.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

Ah, Spring, at last.

Still, it’s not all “raindrops on roses.” Because of climate change, we have to contend with a dramatic increase of pollen in the air. The National Institute of Environmental Health Services recommends that allergy sufferers remain indoors from 5 a.m. – 10 a.m. when the pollen count is highest. Regrettably, that’s Prime Time for work in the garden — especially in hot weather.

But we cope and move on.

British author Iris Murdoch got it right: “One of the secrets of a happy life,” she said, “is continuous small treats.” A wonderful small Spring treat is Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis). I’ve treasured this vigorous, rhizomatous, perennial groundcover for over forty-five years. I can’t imagine my garden without it. In May the plant produces enchanting racemes of very fragrant, tiny, snowy-white bells. A striking variegated-leafed variety, Convallaria majalis ‘Albostriata’, is also available. Photos below.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Lily of the Valley thrives in moist, well-drained, acid soil in shade. All parts of the easy-care plant are poisonous and deer don’t mess with it.

But not everyone is a fan. One of our best garden writers, Allen Lacy, had this to say: “I once planted lily-of-the-valley in a far corner of my garden, for what garden should be without its graceful nodding bells in late spring? But I now have a sheet of it fifteen feet in every direction that must be confined by ripping out great numbers of plants each year. I should have known better.” In a Green Shade (Houghton Mifflin Co. 2000).

Another outstanding American garden writer/author, Elisabeth Sheldon, was even more emphatic: “Who warns people about lily of the valley?” she said. “[It] sends its troops forward underground  — under rocks, pathways, and other plants. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be stopped by a cement sidewalk, so if you want to grow anything other than lily of the valley in your shade garden, you should never let it get started, no matter how much you love its scent.” A Proper Garden (Stackpole Books 1989).

Lacy and Sheldon: Accomplished, hands-on gardeners and a joy to read.

Both writers are factually correct: Lily of the Valley likes to travel and increase. But plant numbers are depressed now because of climate change, so I welcome the volunteers. (I’m sure the voles also deserve credit for the reduced numbers in my garden — unlike deer, voles never let toxicity get between them and a yummy plant meal.)

2019: A Choice Selection of Garden Plants Part 3

It all began with a fabulous Peony.

I was checking out the exhibits at the New York Flower Show when I was stopped in my tracks by Paeonia ‘Largo’. It was love at first sight. As soon as I discovered that Klehm’s Nursery was the mail order source, my order went in. That was nearly 30 years ago.

The New York Flower Show is now long gone but P. ‘Largo’ is alive, healthy and continues to dazzle. And I’m still ordering outstanding plants from Klehm’s Nursery. Here are a few from my 2019 order:

Clematis viticella ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ Z. 4-9

copyright 2019 – Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery

This award-winning deciduous climber produces masses of small, vibrant red flowers with contrasting yellow stamens from June to Fall. Thanks to its viticella genes, Madame Julia possesses excellent resistance to the dreaded Clematis wilt. It blooms on new growth, so hard prune to the ground in early Spring. The Clematis will attain a height of 9-12 feet. Provide fertile, moist, well-drained alkaline soil. Attracts butterflies.

 

Clematis viticella ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ Z. 4-9

copyright 2019 – Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery

This heirloom, award-winning, distinctive Clematis is true to its name: From midsummer to midautumn it produces abundant, elegant, dark-magenta, multi-petaled flowers. Like Madame Julia and other viticellas, it is hardy, vigorous and disease-resistant. After hard-pruning in early Spring, the plant can attain a height of 10-13 feet in one growing season. Provide fertile, moist, well-drained alkaline soil. Attracts butterflies.

 

Baptisia ‘Vanilla Cream’ (Decadence Series) Z. 4-9.

copyright 2019 – Walters Gardens

Baptisia is a tall, deer-resistant, American native perennial that attracts butterflies. It is a tough, long-lived plant that succeeds in nutrient-poor, well-drained acid soil. It is slow-growing at first because it expends considerable energy in producing a deep and extensive root system. Carefully choose the planting site: while the deep, extensive roots support a long-lived plant, successful transplanting is all but impossible.

Baptisias thrive in poor soil because they are able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. A partnership has evolved between the plants and specialized root-colonizing bacteria. The bacteria live in nodules on the plant roots and take nitrogen from the atmosphere and turn it into a form the plant can use. As quid pro quo, the plant provides the bacteria with sugars created through photosynthesis. Pretty neat!

Baptisia’s natural foliage is blue-green and its flowers resemble the bloom of Lupinus and Delphinium. After flowering, the plants produce decorative seed pods that rattle when you shake them. Much like maracas.

B. ‘Vanilla Cream’ is a new cultivar in the Decadence Series. It sports unique grey-green foliage and a compact size of 2.5-3 feet. Its flowers have pale yellow buds opening to showy, creamy white blossoms.

 

Baptisia ‘Pink Lemonade’ (Decadence Deluxe Series) Z. 4-9.

copyright 2019 – Walters Gardens

Plants in this Series have taller stems and exciting new flower colors. B. ‘Pink Lemonade flaunts yellow flowers that mature to raspberry-purple, and both colors appear at the same time on the charcoal-colored stems.  A striking display.

Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery, info@songsparrow.com, 1-608-883-2356

 

Finally, I have to end this post with a photo of Paeonia ‘Largo.’ She insisted.

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

2019: A Choice Selection of Garden Plants

On an icy cold day in January — when I was loath to venture out — I decided to slog through humongous piles of old garden magazines, a task I’d been avoiding forever. While I was sorely tempted to chuck the whole lot sight unseen, I’m glad I didn’t. It was clear as soon as I started reading: the older the magazine, the more interesting and informative the content. As for example, in a 1999 copy of Garden Design I read that in Israel a professor of plant physiology discovered that a pill would extend the life of cut flowers for a whole week. The name of that magic pill? Would you believe Viagra?

(If anyone is interested in the science, the professor knew that nitric oxide preserves vegetables by blocking production of ethylene, which causes produce to age. When he read that Viagra induces the production of nitric oxide, he decided to experiment. And, as often happens in science, one thing led to another.)

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. If you intend to give that special someone a bouquet of roses, why not tuck in a Viagra pill. (Best to also tuck in an explanation.)

In addition to reading old garden magazines, I’ve been checking out 2019 mail order garden catalogs. Looks like a very good year for plants. My orders are in and I’ve chosen favorite nurseries and a garden-worthy selection of plants to highlight and share with you:

SELECT SEEDS, www.selectseeds.com, 1-800-684-0395.

When I was searching for an elusive Salvia cultivar, my friend and plant maven, Anne Haines, suggested I contact Select Seeds. I did, they had it, and I’m happy to recommend this excellent, environmentally friendly source. Following are three of Select Seeds’s favorite plants for Hummingbirds, Bees and Butterflies:

Salvia guaranitica (Blue Brazilian Sage) Z. 8-10

Of all the many Salvias offered by Select Seeds, this deep-blue sage is the Hummingbird hands-down favorite — and the plant also attracts butterflies. It can grow 3-6 feet and blooms from mid-summer to frost. According to Salvia guru, Betty Clebsch, author of A Book of Salvias, you may be able to increase S. guaranitica’s winter hardiness by protecting the plant with pine boughs — a method I use successfully with my container roses. Worth a try.  Plant in rich, well-drained soil, in sun or part shade with regular water. (Select Seeds also offers the fabulous and hard-to-find Salvias: S. splendens ‘Van Houttei’ and S. x ‘Amistad’; I snatched up both.)

Pycnanthemum muticum (Mountain Mint) Z. 4-8

A magnet for bees, this 1-3-foot spearmint-scented, hardy perennial blooms from July-September with showy silvery white bracts surrounding pink-flowering centers. Grow in sun or part shade in rich, well-drained soil. Mountain Mint is vigorous but not invasive like the mint Mentha. Plant this deer-resistant U.S. native, and bees — our hard-working pollinators — will thank you.

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) Z 3-9

Monarch butterflies voted this U.S. native perennial their number one favorite.  Moreover, the plant has numerous additional assets: Pink vanilla-scented flowers form in summer on erect 3-4-foot stems and when the flowers fade, the plant produces attractive seed pods. In the Fall, the leaves turn vibrant autumnal colors. Site in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil. Site carefully because Swamp Milkweed has a deep tap-root and when established should not be disturbed.

 

BLUESTONE PERENNIALS, bluestoneperennials.com, 1-800-852-5243

Bluestone is one of the few sources — if not the only source — for my treasured Trifolium purpurascens. And their plants are shipped in biodegradable pots which do not have to be removed for planting. A plus for the gardener and less stress for the plants. Below are three plants I chose for my garden:

Trifolium purpurascens  (Black Four-Leaf Clover) Z. 5-9

copyright – Bluestone Perennials

A must-have plant for my garden and a perfect gift for gardening friends as well. Everyone appreciates a little luck, especially now that Mother Nature has become loony and unpredictable. This lucky clover is perfect for containers or as a ground cover, and will flourish in sun or shade.

Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’ Z. 4-8

copyright – Bluestone Perennials

Lovely pink-blushed flowers in summer and handsome, unique, chocolate-bronze foliage set this Astilbe apart. Shogun, an award-winning native of Japan, requires a moist, shady site. It is deer-resistant, but needs protection from voles.

Sempervivum ‘Pacific Blue Ice’ (Hens and Chicks) Z. 3-8

copyright – Bluestone Perennials

I love the look of succulents, and Pacific Blue Ice is pretty irresistible with its elegant, icy-blue rosettes. In addition, the plant is evergreen, deer-and-rabbit-resistant, and, when established, tolerant of drought. Provide a sunny site with neutral or alkaline well-drained soil. It will do well in containers or in the ground.

NOTE: Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early Spring. After experiencing the recent polar vortex, I hope we are alive to see it. 

Watch for the next post: 2019 Choice Garden Plants Part 2

2018 Unspooled: A Year In the Garden

“There is something healing in the repeated refrains of nature.” Rachel Carson.

A surprising trend is rapidly taking hold in the premier tech enclave of Silicon Valley, California: Parental concern over children becoming addicted to tech devices has resulted in home use restrictions—even total bans—of smart phones, iPads etc. “I’m convinced the devil lives in our phones”, said one techie, “and is wreaking havoc on our children.” And a top tech exec. said of his children’s screen addiction: “On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine.”

Clearly kids need other interesting and healthy diversions. The late British author/garden designer Gertrude Jekyll recommended one close to my heart:

“I rejoice when I see any one, and especially children, inquiring about flowers, and wanting gardens of their own, and carefully working in them. For love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies, but always grows and grows to an enduring and ever-increasing source of happiness….I hold that the best purpose of a garden is to give delight and to give refreshment of mind, to soothe, to refine, and to lift up the heart.” The Gardener’s Essential (Godine 1986).

I’m also reminded of the words of Maribel P., a fourth grader in an inner city school, who was taking a nature enrichment class: “Sometimes I feel sad,” she said, “and with all the things about plants it makes my day feel better.”

Ditto for me, Maribel.

But I digress. With 2019 almost upon us, I thought a look back might be instructive. Here is a small, diverse sample of plants and highlights from my 2018 garden year:

January-March: Not a big fan of Winter, but in January Mother Nature decorated our kitchen door with wonderful ice art.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

April: Spring began with a heavy snowstorm; then a first sighting of our wild turkeys and the lovely early Spring flowering duo: Pieris ‘Valley Valentine’ and evergreen Azalea, Rhododendron ‘White Surprise’.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

May: May dazzled with large-leafed Rhododendrons like R. ‘Solidarity’, the signature plant of rareFindnursery, and with our beloved native plant, the Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium acaule).

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

June: Roses owned the month of June, represented here by time-tested, fragrant Rosas ‘Leander’ and ‘Aschermittwoch.’ And we had our first sighting of the garden’s treasured native box turtles.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

July/August: Summer bloomers were center stage, especially my favorite Hydrangea, H. x ‘Sweet Chris’ and the very fragrant butterfly/hummingbird magnet, Phlox ‘Laura’.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

September\October: This Autumn we reveled in the intoxicating perfume of Osmanthus x fortunei ‘UNC’. (For years my shrubs suffered winter damage and didn’t bloom at all. Maybe our luck has changed for the better.) I wonder if the fragrance lured our shy garden snakes out of hiding.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

November: Acer palmatum ‘Aoyagi/ukon’ (Japanese Maple).

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

December: Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ was a picture of ghostly white, graceful elegance, and the birds appreciated the abundance of seeds. Good reasons to delay cutting back perennials and grasses until Spring. Moreover, top growth protects a plant’s crown over Winter. Another good reason.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Garden Year 2018: TAKE A BOW!

copyright 2018 – Jessica Amsterdam

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday and a Happy, Healthy New Year! 

November 2018: Rhododendrons

Wow! I was reading an illustrated article about the gardens at Winterthur when I turned a page and there, strutting her stuff, was one of my favorite plants: Rhododendron ‘Winterthur-Dexter #7’. Quite a beauty! (“Azaleas and Rhododendrons at Winterthur,” JARS Vol.72, Number 4, Fall 2018, pp. 179, 180.)

A beauty with a history: Acquired in the 1930’s by H.F. du Pont for his private estate at Winterthur, #7 arrived in a flat of unnamed seedlings from acclaimed plant breeder Charles O. Dexter. The seedlings were tagged with numbers and in 2004 a cutting of #7 was acquired by me at a Rhododendron Convention plant sale. It took a long time to mature and bloom but worth the wait. Photos below. (For more information about Dexter, Winterthur and #7, see post of “June 2016: Rhododendron Razzle Dazzle”.)

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

R. ‘Mount Siga’ is another prized Rhododendron with an interesting provenance. Joseph Gable propagated the plant from wild seed collected in China in 1929 and introduced it into commerce in 1979. I purchased a small plant in 2006 from Rarefind Nursery and it bloomed the following year. Flowering at a young age is not its only asset. My mature Mount Siga is a winter-hardy (-10 F), disease-free, handsome, impressive, 6-foot mound-like shrub. The large-leafed foliage is evergreen and the pink flowers in May are abundant and exquisite. Truly a plant with four seasons of interest. Photos below.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

[Note: While choice Rhododendrons like #7 and Mount Siga are currently difficult to find in commerce, they may turn up at Rhododendron and Azalea Society Chapter plant sales. And there will be a plant sale at the 2019 ARS Convention; I’m told that the final plant list for the sale may be available in March.]

March 2019 Addendum:  I’m now informed the list will be available April 1.

 

This Fall a number of my Spring-blooming Rhododendrons have been duped into bloom by warm weather, compromising Spring flowering. Worse still, if dormancy is delayed, it may affect the hardiness and health of plants like the evergreen Azalea, Rhododendron ‘Chipmunk.’ Photos below.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Many broad-leafed evergreens, like Rhododendrons, are not entirely photoperiodic — i.e., dependent on shorter days to trigger dormancy. These plants are also sensitive to temperature change. (Yet, an alternative theory, proposed  anonymously, suggests that R. ‘Chipmunk’ et al. force their buds to open in the Fall because they suffer from green envy. Well, my evergreen Azaleas R. ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’, R. Bloom-a-Thon Pink Double, and the Encore Azalea R. Autumn Sunburst (aka R.’Roblet’) are bred to bloom in Spring and Fall — and they do tend to flaunt it.)

In the past I’ve planted an army of Encore Azaleas. None survived their first winter. So I’m happy to report that this is Encore Azalea Autumn Sunburst’s third year in the garden. The Azalea is winter-hardy (Zones 6-9) and it’s a reliable bloomer, producing yummy coral-pink flowers in Spring and Fall. An Encore I can safely recommend. Photo below.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving next week. Here is my I’M THANKFUL SHORT LIST:

I’m thankful for my family.

I’m thankful for my organic garden and the wildlife it supports. (Except for voles and ticks. A pox on them!)

I’m thankful that the Democrats won the House. (A good beginning. A very good beginning.)

HAVE A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING!

Autumn 2018: Showy Variegated Grasses

Louis Pasteur once said: “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”

This is as true for gardeners as it is for scientists. I’m constantly finding wonderful gifts from Mother Nature, volunteer plants like Japanese Maples, Weigelas, Hydrangeas and Magnolias, and I try to be “prepared” in order to avoid yanking out the good guys along with undesirable weeds.

Recently, though, I was stumped by an interesting grass-like volunteer growing in a large container of clematis. It had multiple stems ending in a starburst of foliage centered with a cluster of spikelets. I liked it a lot and transferred it to a pot of its own. Photo below.

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

Then I sent off a photo to The Cornell Cooperative Extension requesting an identification. The plant’s ID, Yellow Nutsedge, arrived with a warning: “Yellow Nutsedge will spread readily by seed . . . you might want to cull this plant!” And my go-to reference book on grasses and sedges agreed, calling Yellow Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) an “infamous” and “pernicious weed.” So much for a pretty face!

 

I do grow two showy, variegated grasses with stellar reputations and I’m happy to recommend them:

Arundo donax ‘Variegata’ (Zones 6-10) is a hardy, compact, deer-resistant, green and white boldly striped form of Giant Reed Grass. Photos below.

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

In my garden, Zone 7, it dies back in winter and returns in the Spring. It has never flowered for me and since it doesn’t set seed it is not invasive like the standard form of Giant Reed Grass. While it has been said that Variegata requires sun, my plant flourishes in shade. This Autumn it’s been embraced by a volunteer pink-eyed aster, enhancing the garden presence of both. Photo below.

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

 

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ (Japanese Silver Grass. Zones 5-9) is a hardy, deer-resistant, silvery, shimmering, award-winning fountain of elegance. In the Fall, Morning Light produces abundant, pink, tassel-like flowers and thereafter plumes of white seed heads that last well into winter. In the Spring, my plant has to be cut back close to the ground to make way for the new growth. Photos below.

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

 

I have been delighted to find a number of Morning Light’s progeny popping up in the garden.

2018: Late Summer Interest

Late summer is prime bloom time for Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus zones 5-8). My hardy shrubs are beloved by bees and hummingbirds and flower from early August thru September in varying shades of white, pink and purple. They never disappoint. Photo below.

copyright — Lois Sheinfeld 2018

 

Would that I could say the same for the beautiful begonias I wrote about in June. Pounding, torrential downpours in August wreaked havoc on them. So, for late summer interest, I’ve identified a sturdy, intrepid, time-tested plant that has withstood Mother Nature’s assaults and can be successfully grown in a container or in the ground:

Hylotelephium telephium ssp. ruprechtii ‘Hab Gray’ (aka Sedum telephium ssp. ruprechtii ‘Hab Grey’)  Quite a mouthful. It must have been a slow day in taxonomy land when the plant was christened. Defined by all that hoity-toity Latin, one might expect a demanding, pampered aristocrat. Hab Gray is anything but.

This hardy herbaceous perennial has showy, succulent, gray-green foliage adorning 12-14 inch pink stems, and in late summer produces dense clusters of small, white, star-like flowers, magnets for butterflies and bees. Photos below.

copyright — Lois Sheinfeld 2018

copyright — Lois Sheinfeld 2018

copyright — Lois Sheinfeld 2018

Hab Gray is drought tolerant and will succeed in zones 4-8 in well-drained, low-fertile soil. My plant has flourished for 15 years in an outdoor container. At the onset of winter, I cover the plant with conifer branches and store it under an outdoor bench until Spring. In the ground, it’s an ideal plant for a rock garden or for the front of the border.

Finally, Hab Gray has an additional asset: A detached leaf rooted in soil will form a new plant — perfect for gifts, garden club plant sales or classroom/home projects with children.

 

Toxic Chemical Update: A recent study has found elevated levels of the cancer-linked herbicide glyphosate in 31 tested samples of breakfast food, including Cheerios and Quaker Oats. (A study last year also reported a link between glyphosate and liver disease.)

No surprise that Monsanto—the producer of Roundup, the most popular herbicide containing glyphosate –and the manufacturers of the tainted cereal say that their products meet federal standards and the glyphosate in the food does not exceed levels set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s a joke. This is the very same Trump EPA that is trashing all reasonable and essential health and safety regulations and standards in the name of deregulation in favor of Big Business. (See post, “Jan/Feb. 2018: Toxic Chemical Alert”).

I no more trust Trump’s EPA than I trust Monsanto. Besides, a pox on EPA’s acceptable levels of poison! I don’t want to eat ANY toxic glyphosate. Or feed it to my family. Or feed it to anyone else for that matter.

Maybe that’s just me.

2018: Resplendent Trees & Climate Change

Americans have often experienced green envy when touring gardens across the pond. So I guess the Brits are entitled to bragging rights. Yet, I was a bit surprised when I read these in-your-face assertions made by English author, Penelope Lively:

“I am going to get xenophobic here: we garden rather well. I am tempted to say we garden second to none . . . English gardens do not wear a straitjacket; they are lush, exuberant, expansive . . . We have an immediate advantage: the climate. The temperate climate that means plenty of rain for those lawns, and for everything else, few prolonged extremes of either cold or heat, a long growing period.” LIFE IN THE GARDEN (Viking 2017).

As recently reported by The New York Times, England’s green and pleasant land has turned “brown and brittle”. (The New York Times, 7/5/2018, p. A8.)  Britain is now suffering prolonged drought and record high temperatures. (Sorry, Penelope.)

Climate change is real and affects us all. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to perform simple summer garden tasks in the suffocating heat.  And temperature extremes exact a brutal toll on the plants.

Now is an ideal time to identify and celebrate time-tested, outstanding garden survivors:

Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood) Z 5-9, is a deciduous, native tree, with multi-seasons of interest. In summer it produces cascading sprays of tiny, urn-shape, fragrant white flowers, beloved by bees. The lustrous, dark green leaves turn vibrant shades of red in Autumn.  After twenty years my tree is about 25 feet tall. Photos below.

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

 

Provide acid, moist, well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. The tree does well in sun or part-shade. Here it receives only a few hours of filtered sun, yet is a reliable bloomer. Thus far, my Sourwood has been pest and disease free and immune to Mother Nature’s insults. A fabulous, easy-care, specimen tree.

 

I’m also quite taken with the striking, unusual, Asian native deciduous tree, Firmiana simplex (Chinese Parasol Tree) Z 7-9. The Parasol Tree is a stand-out with enormous, tropical-like leaves and green bark. Photo below.

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld 2018

It blooms in summer with clusters of small yellow-green flowers on showy, long panicles at the ends of branches. When the flowers age and produce seed in late summer, the tree reveals the reason for its common name: the papery seed-covers separate and drape over the seeds like tiny umbrellas (parasols).

Chinese Parasol Trees can be successfully grown in a variety of soils and in sun or shade. Mine has been healthy for 10 years in acid soil and in shade. But it has never bloomed. Moreover, while Firmiana can attain a height of 40 feet my tree is only about 3 feet and doesn’t seem inclined to grow any higher. Methinks it needs sun for growth and bloom.  Act accordingly if you are into tall and parasols.

One more thing: It is believed that the mythical Chinese Phoenix Bird, feng huang, perches on the Firmiana tree.This extraordinary bird symbolizes unity and harmony — male-female, yin-yang — as well as goodness and justice. And it sings like an angel.

Provide the perch and the bird may come.

June\July 2018: Begonias & Rhododendrons

Next time you eat in a restaurant and indulge in a calorie-laden rich desert, blame it on the music. Studies now show that loud music compels us to make unhealthy food choices. We gravitate toward healthier items when the music volume is low.

In the garden, you don’t need the right music to make smart choices.

It was a piece of cake to fill the garden’s outdoor seasonal containers: I simply adopted a bevy of healthy, showy, long-blooming Begonias:

I found the perfect apricot-pink flowered, dark-leafed beauty for my favorite pot. (Alas, no name-tag.) Photos below.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

A fixed container on the front door stair landing was paired with a handsome selection of orange tuberous begonias. (Also nameless.) Photos below.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And a large container in the back-garden dazzles with the tried-and-true, award-winning Begonia ‘Encanto Orange’. Photo below.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

Begonias appreciate compost-rich soil, shade, and, if it doesn’t rain, weekly watering.

My go-to sources for Begonias are Marders Garden Center, Bridgehampton, NY and Halsey Farm & Nursery, Watermill, NY.

 

In the Fall, I wrote about another wonderful shade lover, Rhododendron Bloom-A-Thon Pink Double. (See post “Autumn 2017: Snap, Crackle, and Pop”.) This hardy evergreen azalea bloomed in October 2017, survived the horrific winter, and rebloomed this June. A star performer. June Photo below.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I purchased Bloom-A-Thon Pink Double from Rarefind Nursery in Jackson, NJ. And I scored again in 2018 with their luscious offering, the evergreen azalea R. ‘Mrs. Nancy Dipple’. Finally! Nancy is mine! It’s been over ten years since I first saw her on a garden tour and added her to my wish list. Photo below.

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron, R. makinoi, is an outstanding evergreen shrub for a shade garden. It is slow growing to 3 feet with a dense, rounded habit. Included among its many assets are unusual long narrow leaves arranged like the ribs of an umbrella, April/May white flowers opening from pink buds, and, in July, new foliage that emerges cloaked with white tomentum. (By late summer, the plant flaunts its evergreen dark-green foliage with tawny indumentum.) And did I mention R. makinoi’s essential attributes of winter hardiness and good health? Photos below. (Purchased years ago from Rarefind.)

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

All of the above are healthy choices. Indulge away!

 

ADDENDUM June 22: Just got word from Marders, the apricot-pink Begonia, featured above in my favorite pot, is called Unstoppable Salmon.

Early Spring 2018: A Vision in White

HUH??? Was Mother Nature a bit tipsy when she was staging Spring? (April photo below.)

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

She took three weeks to sober up before forsythia — the official herald of Spring — finally burst into bloom.  (Photo below.)

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Prunus ‘Snow Fountain,’ my ethereal and fragrant weeping cherry tree, also flowers in April and has been problem free and a reliable Spring bloomer for over 25 years. An ideal addition for a white garden– or any garden. (Photo below.)

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Ditto for the Prunus glandulosa ‘Alba Plena’ (Dwarf Flowering Almond) that I purchased last year.  Alba Plena, a small, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub, survived the horrific winter without damage and then cloaked itself in showy, double white Spring blossoms. (Photo below.)

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

I’m aware that P. glandulosa has been called “a very poor plant” because it doesn’t play Mozart in all seasons. Actually, I’m quite partial to plants that possess multi-seasons of interest.  But I’m a pushover for exceptional flowering beauty, especially in the early Spring when it is so appreciated. (And P. glandulosa is one tough, hardy plant. I’m sorry to report that a few of those Mozart players did not survive the winter.)

 

Talk about exceptional flowering beauty, this Spring I was seduced by the bi-color, fragrant bloom of the Annual Nemesia ‘Cherry Blue’. Couldn’t resist the razzle-dazzle. Perfect in a pot. (Photo below.)

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, when making plant decisions for my garden — including additions and subtractions — I’m ever mindful of the words of one of my favorite garden writers, Elizabeth Lawrence:

“A pomegranate tree was one of the first plants to come into my garden…and it was one of the first to go, for I could never find a place where the burning scarlet of the flowers was not at war with its surroundings.

Now I often wish I had kept the pomegranate and let everything else go. I have nothing to match its beauty and brilliance in flower and fruit.” 

Through The Garden Gate (1990)

April 2018: Trees, Trees, Wonderful Trees

NEWS ALERT: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Scott Pruitt should be shown the door — or, these days, shown the tweet. In addition to having a history of ethically questionable conduct, including misuse of public funds, we now learn that Pruitt has accepted a financial benefit (bribe?) from a lobbyist.  Isn’t that a fatal no-no? Even in Trumpville?

Not that we can expect any Pruitt replacement to protect the environment. (See post, Jan.\Feb. 2018: “Toxic Chemical Alert”). A recent appointee to EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board actually said that our air is “too clean.”

All the more reason for us to hug a tree. Trees inhale toxic carbon dioxide and exhale life-supporting oxygen. As Peter Wohlleben observed in The Hidden Life of Trees: “Every walk in the forest is like taking a shower in oxygen.” Moreover, in the home garden, trees provide needed shade and a habitat for songbirds and other wildlife. They also endow the garden with a sense of permanence, beauty, and ofttimes fragrance.

In this post I’d like to focus on one of my favorite “Peelers” — an interesting tree with exfoliating bark and multi-seasons of interest — that has been problem-free in my organic garden for over twenty years:

Clethra barbinervis (Zones 5-8) is a deciduous tree, native to Japan and a kissin’ cousin of our native shrub, Clethra alnifolia. While not as well known as C. alnifolia, this showy, 10-20 foot, deer-resistant beauty deserves our attention. C. barbinervis has dark green, trouble-free foliage and abundant racemes of fragrant, snowy white flowers in July and August. The tree is a reliable bloomer; the fragrance is carried on the air and attracts bees, butterflies, and me.

When the flowers fade, attractive seed capsules are produced and persist until frost. My tree’s foliage never displays Fall color, though the garden literature speaks of it. But the mottled, exfoliating bark is handsome year round. (Photo below of bark, foliage, and flowers.)

 

copyright 2018 – Lois Sheinfeld

Provide acid, well-drained, moist, rich soil. A shady site is best. Avoid dry areas; water during drought.

 

Finally, if anyone gardens in Zones 9-10, you can grow the extraordinary, ne plus ultra exfoliating tree, Eucalyptus deglupta (Rainbow Eucalyptus). (Photo below).

copyright 2018 – Jessica Amsterdam

 

UPDATE April 13, 2018: Corrupt Scott Pruitt is still on the job at the Environmental Protection Agency. Hurry up and pay your Federal income tax: Pruitt wants your hard-earned dollars to support his in-your-face opulent lifestyle—first class plane tickets, deluxe hotels here and abroad, expensive five course dinners in Italy for him and 6 of his Agency pals, etc. etc. etc. All on the public dime. He is a National disgrace!

March 2018: Helleborus and Naming Names.

Dear Reader,

I had knee replacement surgery in February. Recovery has been slow but sure. Sort of like the garden slowly but surely shedding the last insults of Winter.

Looking forward to April!

Until then, thought you might enjoy this March 2012 post about Helleborus and Naming Names:

Helleborus and Naming Names

Big surprise! February wasn’t the “cruellest” month, not even close. (See “Birds” (February 2012.) And now that March has arrived, Spring is just a shiver away. Let’s talk plants:

These days you can’t open a nursery catalog without seeing scores of new hellebores. Breeders have gone overboard,  producing double flowers, multicolored flowers, speckled flowers and all sorts of combinations. You name it, they’ve got it.

And the plant photos are spectacular. Which is all well and good if you are gardening in a catalog. In a garden, most of the flowers are so hangdog you can’t appreciate their beauty without first getting down on your hands and knees in order to lift their heads for a peek. I don’t know about you, but since my knees suffered through two bouts of Lyme Disease (ticks 2, Lois o) I might  be able to get down, but I sure as blazes can’t get back up.

But all is not lost. There is a fella I know (and grow), Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’, who isn’t at all shy and downcast. With sturdy stems, lovely outward facing white flowers with streaks of pink and green, and blue-green foliage, he’s my kind of guy.

Ditto for H. ‘HGC Josef Lemper’, similarly endowed and possessing even larger white flowers that fade to a light green. I saw this robust hellebore featured in the Linden Hill Gardens’ exhibit at the 2012 Plant-O-Rama held at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The folks at Linden Hill told me that the plant blooms for them in Bucks County, PA, from November to May. Wow! The real Josef Lemper must be quite something.

Or, maybe not.

Breeders name plants for all sorts of reasons. Some auction off naming rights to the highest bidder and others, like Dr. Griffith Buck, the famed rose hybridizer, named plants after friends. But as Dr. Buck discovered, it didn’t always work out. One friend refused the honor because she didn’t want to hear:  “Fleeta has a weak neck, Fleeta wilts, Fleeta fades”. (Fleeta had a point.)

The most famous name-caller of all was the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who, in the 18th century, devised an entirely new classification procedure for plants, the Linnaean binomial system of nomenclature, which is the basis of our modern method. As aptly stated in an informative article  by Kennedy Warne, founding editor of New Zealand Geographic, “Carl Linnaeus, born 300 years ago, brought order to nature’s blooming, buzzing confusion.”  (Warne, “Organization Man,” Smithsonian magazine, May 2007).

Linnaeus took advantage of his position as namer-in-chief to honor those he liked and to belittle those he didn’t. As for example, he “rewarded” one of his critics by naming a smelly weed after him. He didn’t always play nice.

(But he was quite interesting. Many of his lectures were nature studies held outdoors, walking through fields with hundreds of participants —  joyous, educational social gatherings replete with colorful banners and the jubilant sounds of trumpets, bugles and horns. Linnaeus styled these events, “inquisitions of the pastures”. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing for some. “We Swedes are a serious and slow-witted people”, protested the rector of Uppsala University. “We cannot, like others, unite the pleasurable and fun with the serious and useful”.)

In the 2012 plant catalogs, plant names are followed by plant descriptions, but I don’t think we are getting the whole story — at least not where hellebores are concerned. I much prefer John Gerard’s popular Herball of 1597, because he paid attention to the “vertues”of plants. Accordingly, hellebores were recommended “for mad men”, “for melancholy,” and “for dull persons.”

In other words, it’s a great plant if you are crazy, depressed or dull. Useful information.

Hellebores prefer a sweet (alkaline) soil. So, if your soil is acidic, amend with lime, or even better, wood-ash, in order to raise the ph. Provide some shade and moisture and you are good to go. (Note: Wood-ash from the fireplace also benefits other sweet-soil lovers like lilacs and peonies).

Finally, naming names isn’t limited to plants, and Linnaeus isn’t the only name-calling meanie. On a visit to the zoo, we saw a sign on a bear’s enclosure that said “Ursus horribilis”. Now, how do you suppose the bear felt? Maybe it says “Beautiful Bear” on his side of the fence, but I doubt it. (And his common name, Grizzly, isn’t much better!).

Postscript: Just read in the New York Times (3/6/2012, p.D.3) that, like me, the 5,300 year old Tyrolean Iceman had bad knees, and like me, researchers suspect that he had Lyme Disease. Wonder what he thought about hellebores.

Jan./Feb. 2018: Toxic Chemical Alert

President Lyndon Johnson once said: “A man’s judgment is no better than his information.” True enough. Unfortunately, in Washington D.C., bad judgment often prevails despite good information.

In the 2017 November/December issue of The American Gardener, Scott Aker recommended killing bindweed with an herbicide containing glyphosate, a toxic chemical known to have a probable link to cancer.

[Scott Aker is the federal bureaucrat, who, in 2010, proposed killing the entire historic collection of beautiful Glenn Dale azaleas at the U.S. National Arboretum. He said the azalea display was too popular and caused parking problems. (I wonder what was next on his list? The Lincoln Memorial?). Public outrage rightly put an end to the Aker plan.]

Aker is now head of horticulture and education at the National Arboretum–which operates under the jurisdiction and control of the United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.). Perhaps that explains his unfortunate embrace of glyphosate:

By executive order, President Trump mandated a widespread government deregulation review. A top official at the U.S.D.A., Rebeckah Adcock, is currently leading that Department’s “deregulation team.” Adcock was previously employed as an executive and lobbyist for CropLife America, the pesticide industry’s primary trade group.  CropLife has a vested interest in promoting pesticides and deregulation—i.e., an interest in the removal of pesticide-restrictive health and safety regulatory protections. And, as reported by The New York Times, Adcock is playing footsie with her old pals: (“At the U.S.D.A., Pesticide Lobbyists Encounter a Welcome Mat,” The New York Times, November 14, 2017, p. B1.). Republicans have applauded the deregulation teams for their “unprecedented reduction in the federal regulatory footprint.”

Note: As for Scott Aker, Monsanto, the producer of Roundup—arguably the best-selling herbicide containing cancer-linked glyphosate—is a member of CropLife. Connect the dots and close the circle.

The situation at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) is even more dire. President Trump choose Scott Pruitt to head up the Agency. When Pruitt was the Oklahoma attorney general, he sued the E.P.A. at least 14 times in an attempt to block public-interest rules he is now in charge of enforcing.

Pruitt has not disappointed the President: Since he took office, “he has held back to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates—and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates.” ( The New York Times, October 3, 2017, p. A1.)

No surprise that the Pruitt E.P.A. will likely act in favor of industry and against the public interest, endangering the environment and American lives. And it has. Consider the Agency’s review of the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos—produced by Dow—which is one of a class of chemicals developed to attack the nervous system. Much like sarin gas.

Almost twenty years ago, based on scientific evidence linking chlorpyrifos with severe human health problems—especially with children— it was banned for inside use. Since that time, because of the results of the E.P.A.’s own studies as well as other compelling scientific evidence, E.P.A. scientists determined that there must be a total ban of chlorpyrifos. This determination enjoyed considerable public support: The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, declared the pesticide “unambiguously dangerous” and called for its ban.

Scott Pruitt thought otherwise. Result: Dow: ONE. Public Health: ZERO.

Just one day after Pruitt overruled his own scientists and refused to ban chlorpyrifos, representatives of CropLife America met with him to “acknowledge the many actions taken already to correct recent regulatory overreach.” (Yes, Dow is also a member of CropLife.)

As long as pesticide producers reap billions in profits, they will saturate the market with toxic products that threaten wildlife, domestic pets, and beneficial insects—not to mention beneficial family members. The current Administration will not protect us. Until there is a change in Washington D.C., we can at least do everything within our control to protect ourselves. In the wonderful book, “The Sweet Apple Gardening Book,” Celestine Sibley said it best:

THERE’S A THEORY circulating among my friends and neighbors that I don’t rise up and do battle against the creeping, crawling, hopping, flying. boring, sucking wild life that makes free with my garden because I’m either too lazy or too squeamish.

And while there’s an element of truth in this theory, it’s not the whole truth…. I do worry that I might kill villains and heroes indiscriminately, repay the kindness of my invaluable friends, the birds, with a case of acute gastritis and possibly even jeopardize the health and well-being of those great gardening assistants, my grandchildren.

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018: Look to the Future

“Orchids are among the best liars on earth,” declared orchid guru Judy White in a recent issue of The American Gardener. “They have developed an arsenal of seduction mechanisms,” she explained, “aimed at attracting — and often hoodwinking — pollinators . . . . These deceptions frequently are one-way streets when it comes to reward.” The orchid is fertilized “while the duped pollinator gets nothing in return.”

Sound familiar? As evidenced by The New York Times, President Trump is a card-carrying member of the Best Liars Club. (The New York Times, “Trump’s Lies,” June 23, 2017, updated December 14, 2017.) He can teach orchids a thing or two. In addition to the lies, almost every day we suffer the trashing of essential protections by an Administration reeking with corrupt ambition and unbridled greed. Drain the Swamp? Make America Great Again? Really??? Haven’t we been duped like the unfortunate folks who signed up for the phony Trump University?

It’s enough to make one very cranky.

Yet, if we can’t have the White House we wish for — where is Aaron Sorkin when you really need him? — we can always look to the garden for comfort. As a garden writer once said: “The whole garden seems one loud voice of exultant hope.” So, let’s talk time-tested worthy plants for 2018:

Flowering Rhododendron shrubs add beauty and distinction to a garden. Moreover, they are remarkably self-reliant. The plant pictured below lost a huge branch during a horrific storm but soon produced others that flowered after a few seasons. Don’t ever give up on your Rhododendrons. They know how to survive.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Some are better than others at survival. Rhododendron ‘Koromo Shikibu’, an evergreen azalea, not only thrives but expands under adverse weather conditions — often at the expense of its neighbors. Although Koromo may prefer taking over half a garden to express itself, it won’t hold a grudge when subjected to yearly hard-pruning.  Photo below of the exquisite flowers. (Note: Some claim the flowers are fragrant. My plants are not fragrant, nor are the plants in the many gardens I’ve visited.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Trees are also self-reliant. Punch a hole in a tree trunk and it will repair itself. Photo below. (Using tar, etc. to cover the hole is no longer advised as it hinders the tree’s recovery. Don’t help — just stand back and admire.) For tree huggers everywhere, I recommend the fascinating, informed book by Peter Wohlleben: The Hidden Life of TREES.

copyright 2017 – Jessica Amsterdam

 

If you adopt a few Digitalis plants, they will seed themselves, and the progeny of these stately foxgloves will grace your garden forever. The bees will thank you. Photos below of D. grandiflora and D. ferruginea.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, let’s not forget the birds. They appreciate berry producing shrubs like the Berberis thunbergii pictured below. This bird-favorite, easy-care, thorny barberry is deer-resistant, tolerates shade, and, in addition to providing  autumn interest, produces lovely primrose yellow flowers in Spring.

copyright 2017 – Jessica Amsterdam

 

Have hope — 2018 is but a shiver away. Think plants — and midterm elections!

Wishing you and yours a New Year as fabulous as a Flamboyance of Flamingos!

copyright 2017 – Jessica Amsterdam

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. Their lawyer should sue Mother Nature for wrongful death.}

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Autumn 2017: Fig Fundamentals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A major disappointment.

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

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

2017: Summer End Game

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

Summer 2017: Clematis & Gardenias

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

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

Summer 2017: Roses & Clematis

Trouble in Paradise:

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

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

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

Pretty In Pink:

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

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

Spring 2017: Fragrant Radiance

We live in an extraordinarily trying time.

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Dee Finkelstein

Spring 2017: Resplendent Rhododendrons

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

Hank Schannen’s 12 Criteria for Success with Rhododendron

1. Drainage

2. Drainage

3. Drainage

4. Drainage

5. Drainage

6. Drainage

7. Acid pH

8. Dappled shade

9. Able to water when needed

10. If containerized, loosen roots (viciously)

11. When in doubt, plant it HIGH!

12. Hmmm – More DRAINAGE!!!

 

How to kill a rhododendron:

1 .Southwest corner of a house

2. Full sun

3. Heavy clay soil

4. Wet – poor drainage

5. Down spout nearby

6. Neutral/alkaline pH

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

8. Ignore Criteria above

2017 Early Spring: Camellias & Honeysuckle

Spring is really here!

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

And Mother Nature is full of surprises.

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

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

2017: Year Of The Rooster & Global Warming

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

Will any birds sing for us?

Jan.\Feb. 2017: Fragrant Native Plants

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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!

December 2016: Singin’ The Blues

We are fast approaching the end of 2016 and I’m dreamin’ of Spring and singin’ the blues — garden blues.

Before you are seduced by the glossy photos in 2017 plant catalogs, I’d like to bring to your attention a number of captivating “blue” plants that have been time-tested in my organic garden:

Rhododendron ‘Turquoise and Gold’ is a 3 foot tall, mildew-resistant (for me, mildew-free) deciduous azalea. For twelve years the shrub has exceeded expectations with lush displays of beautiful, deliciously fragrant golden flowers, and healthy, blue-hued foliage. Photos below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Abies koreana ‘Silberlocke’ (Korean Fir) is a compact, slow-growing (3-6 inches a year) evergreen conifer — a distinctive tree, with upright blue cones in Spring, and wondrous, tightly curled, green needled foliage with silver undersides. Photo below. (I should note that for the first few years in my garden the tree’s greenish-white cones never turned blue. Why? I haven’t a clue.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca'(a/k/a Glauca Group) is a tall, vigorous, very cold-hardy Japanese White Pine. This handsome tree has evergreen, blue-green-silvery foliage and is embellished in the Spring with an abundance of pink — yes, pink! — cones. And ‘Glauca’ has been problem free for 25 years. Photos below of the cones and foliage.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, another shout out for Henna Coleus. (See Post: “September 2016: Ode To Late Summer”.) Henna isn’t blue, but deserving of celebration nonetheless. While her Coleus container companions died in October, Henna continued to flaunt her ruffles thru Thanksgiving. I replaced the dead plants with conifer stems. A whole new look. Photo below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Autumn 2016: Garden Successes Part 3

This is an oak mast year like none other: Torrents of acorns have been raining down on our heads for months. We need to buy helmets. Mother Nature is fond of oak forests. Me, not so much.

We remove bucket upon bucket overflowing with acorns from our garden beds, decks and paths, yet an abundance of acorns remains. The woodland creatures don’t seem the least bit interested in eating acorns. Even the usual suspects, the squirrels, act as if acorns have nothing to do with them — they are always at the bird feeders, along with the chipmunks.

But I digress. I really want to talk about 2016 garden successes:

First and foremost is the vine Lablab purpureus (Hyacinth Bean), a fast growing, showy annual. Flaunting purple stems, purple flushed green foliage, and purple flowers, Lablab is a dazzler. And when the flowers fade, the vine produces amazing mahogany-red bean pods.

I last grew the vine in 2004, collected the mature black and white beans — when the pods turned brown and dry — and stored them in the refrigerator in a small glass jar. For years, every time I opened the fridge door they screamed, “Plant us, plant us already!”

So, this year, I did.

Scientists germinated a date-palm seed that was nearly 2,000 years old and my beans were only 12. A piece of cake. Yet to ensure success, I soaked the beans in hot water overnight, planted them in a large, tall container with a tripod to avoid voles and rabbits, and waited until late July’s hot weather — a condition precedent for germination. Within weeks, they were on their way up the tripod, and soon after, Lablab flowers and pods appeared. Photos below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Berried plants are also good doers, especially the native Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). My Winterberry shrubs thrive in moist, acid soil in shade and have been winter-hardy and disease-free for over twenty years. While hybridizers have produced scores of named cultivars, I love the Common Winterberry form. There is nothing common about it. Just ask the birds. Every year they gorge themselves on the berries and every year we find — happily find — Winterberry volunteers in the garden. Photos of the berries below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) is another outstanding native plant and my natural groundcover. All the woodland creatures love its berries — and so do I. (While we have close to four acres, I’m lucky if they leave me enough to bake a pie.) As a bonus, come Autumn, the blueberry foliage is aglow with color. Photos below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Garden successes — and plants in general — do help to offset the angst of a sorry Presidential election. Have a joyous Thanksgiving!