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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.

2016 What’s New: Klehm’s Song Sparrow

In 1990 I discovered that Klehm Nursery (now Klehm’s Song Sparrow) was the source for a gorgeous peony I saw at the New York Flower Show, and I have been a loyal customer and fan ever since. While the Nursery has changed names and location (originally South Barrington, IL.), its commitment to providing a wide mail-order selection of outstanding plants — and, equally important, outstanding customer service — has been constant and unwavering.

Klehm’s 2016 new plant offerings are especially exciting. Here are a few of my picks:

 

Buddleia davidii ‘Glass Slippers’ (Butterfly Bush). z. 5-9.

Photo credit to Walters Gardens, Inc.

Photo credit to Walters Gardens, Inc.

A yummy light-blue, orange-eyed, fragrant-flowering, silvery-green foliaged, compact plant that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees — who could resist? Planting Tip: If you have acidic soil, before planting amend with lime or wood ash to raise the pH. Buddleias are partial to sweet soil.

 

Phlox paniculata Bubblegum Pink; P.p. Coral Creme Drop; P.p.Cotton Candy; P.p. Grape Lollipop. zones 4-8.

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Many years ago, on a garden tour of Bainbridge Island, Washington, I saw a show-stopping container filled to bursting with fragrant, colorful phlox, and I’m forever trying to duplicate that fabulousness in my garden. Mildew can wreck a phlox display, so mildew-resistant plants are essential. Happily, you can’t do better than the rainbow of beautiful, fragrant, disease-resistant plants pictured above. And did I mention that like Buddleia, these long-blooming, vigorous plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds? My order is in.

 

Carex siderosticha ‘Snow Cap’ z. 5-9.

Photo credit to Walters Gardens, Inc.

Photo credit to Walters Gardens, Inc.

This new Asian sedge hybrid is true to the variety siderosticha in every important way: It’s a low growing, long-lived, deer-resistant plant that spreads slowly into a dense mass of foliage. But this isn’t the typical green-leaved form. Snow Cap dazzles with broad snowy-white leaves edged in green, with an occasional green stripe bonus. An ideal woodland/shade garden ground cover.

 

Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii Candy z. 4-7

Photo credit to Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Photo credit to Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Candy is all about the berries. In Autumn, this deer-resistant, ornamental woody’s branches are smothered under an avalanche of candy-pink fruit. And the decorative berries persist thru winter. Since the shrub is so compact — only about 2 feet at maturity — a front edging row of plants would create a glorious Autumn/Winter destination planting.

 

Note: The gorgeous peony that led me to Klehm 26 years ago is still flowering and healthy. Needless to say, Klehm is also my go-to place for peonies. The Klehm selection surpasses all others.

For easy access to Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery website, click on at LINKS.

2015 Year-End Beauty/Spring Promise

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

 

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

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, the natural splendor of a mossy cushion.

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

July/August 2015: Summer Fragrance

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

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

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

BEFORE VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR
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AFTER VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR
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AFTER VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

June 2015: SPLENDID SURVIVORS

THIS WAS THE WORST WINTER EVER!!!

A number of roses I successfully grew in containers for 15+years turned black and died. My 20 year old, 18 foot tall, multi-trunk fig tree — that last year produced an over-abundance of fruit — died to the ground. (Thankfully, it has just pushed up new growth from the roots.) Similarly, the osmanthus and camellias didn’t perish, but they all suffered extensive, unsightly, foliage/stem die-back.

Ditto for the hydrangeas — but not all of the hydrangeas. For the second year in a row the macrophylla mopheads sustained considerable damage, while the lacecaps came through in pristine condition. Two of my captivating, cold-tolerant lacecaps are rather unique: H. macrophylla ‘Lynn’ (Let’s Dance Starlight Series) is the very first re-blooming lacecap and H. macrophylla ‘Sol’ has unusual, handsome, red-flushed, dark-green foliage. (Photo below of Lynn followed by photo of Sol. And for photos and information about other wonderful lacecaps, see Post, “August 2014: Hydrangeas”.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

I purchased H. macrophylla ‘Lynn’ from a local source, Lynch’s Garden Center, Southampton, N.Y., and  H. macrophylla ‘Sol’ by mail-order from Hydrangeas Plus, www.hydrangeasplus.com; phone: 866-433-7896.

More good news. Gold stars go to each and every one of my Japanese Maples: They thumbed their noses at loony Mother Nature and came through her devastating winter onslaught without a scratch. I treasure them all, but Acer palmatum ‘Omure yama’ is deserving of special mention. The tree has an elegant form with pendulous branches and soft, willowy foliage. New leaf growth is touched with orange before turning green. And then, in the Fall — ZOWIE!!!! — the foliage turns glorious, enchanting shades of gold and crimson. Irresistible! (Photos below)

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

I bought my first Omure yama in 2007, and a second one this year. (Photo below of Omure 2015 in its mail-order pot waiting to be planted. Lovely form, even as a toddler.)

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

Both trees were purchased from my go-to-source for Japanese Maples: Eastwoods Nurseries, Washington VA. For easy access to their website, click on at LINKS.

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

Good news alert: Coffee is the new blueberry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

April 2015: Salix caprea ‘Pendula’ & Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis

 

Spring has truly sprung! Good riddance to this:

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And say hello to a few fabulous early Spring bloomers:

Salix caprea ‘Pendula’ (Weeping Goat Willow) never fails to impress. In my garden, at the ripe old age of 22, it continues to produce decorative large gray catkins (pussy-willows) that open to bright yellow flowers. The bloom is a magnet for the exquisite Mourning Cloak Butterfly. ( Photos below).

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

First discovered on the banks of the River Ayr in Scotland, this deciduous small tree appreciates moist soil and is very cold-hardy. (Zones 4-8). At one time, Salix caprea was fed to goats — i.e., its common name — so if you have goats, beware. Otherwise, I have found it to be pest and disease free. 

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis is a handsome, low-growing, fragrant-flowering, evergreen shrub, an ideal ground cover for a shady garden. The early Spring flowers are tiny but release a delicious fragrance. (Photo below). When the flowers fade, a green berry is produced that matures to black.

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

While the shrub is stoloniferous, the volunteers don’t travel about but stay close to the Mother plant. (Photo below). Thus, far from being a nuisance, a single Sarcococca plant can quickly and efficiently cover a designated area.

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

In my organic garden the shrub has suffered no pest or disease problems. Moreover, unlike most plants that like to see the sky above their heads, Sarcococca will flourish planted under trees or shrubs. Just provide shade, and acid, well-drained, organic-rich soil. ( Zones 6-8).

2015 What’s New?: Deer Country Gardens

My garden sings with plants I purchased from Heronswood, Roslyn, and Fairweather Gardens. Sadly, all three nurseries have closed. They are missed.

The good news is that Deer Country Gardens, a retail/mail-order garden nursery, has recently opened. Nursery founder Anne Haines, an accomplished plantswoman, has a laudable mission: “To offer trees, shrubs, perennials, herbs, annuals and edibles that are deer-resistant AND great garden plants.”

Included among the “greats”, Deer Country offers a choice selection of Pieris cultivars, a number of which I grow and love. In addition to deer resistance (deer-free in my garden), Pieris shrubs possess many wonderful attributes: evergreen foliage, beautiful, fragrant flowers that attract bees and butterflies, colorful new growth, and, in my shady, organic garden, the plants have been disease and pest free. (NOTE: Pieris may be vulnerable to lace bug attack when grown in sun.)

Photos below: Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire‘s snowy-white fragrant flowers and crimson new growth; and Pieris x Brouwer’s Beauty, first in flower, and later when the light green new growth creates an elegant contrast with the dark evergreen foliage:

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

In addition to Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ and Pieris x ‘Brouwer’s Beauty’ other fabulous Pieris cultivars available for purchase include: Pieris japonica ‘Katsura’; P.j. ‘Dorothy Wyckoff’; P.j. ‘Forest Flame’; P.j. ‘Scarlett O’Hara’; P.j. ‘Passion’; P.j. var. yakushimanum ‘Cavatine’ (Dwarf).

 

For shady gardens, the evergreen, low-growing shrub Sarcoccoa hookeriana var. humilis  is an ideal ground cover or decorative edging. In early Spring, it produces tiny, very fragrant flowers that release their delicious perfume into the air, and the plant enjoys hardiness and good health all year round.

courtesy of Deer Country Gardens

photo courtesy of Deer Country Gardens

 

A deciduous shrub that caught my eye, Spirea japonica ‘Double Play Red’, flaunts unique vibrant red flowers and showy dark-burgundy new growth.

photo by permission of Proven Winners

photo by permission of Proven Winners

 

Multi-award winner and universally admired Geranium ‘ Rozanne’ is a must-have perennial. Deer Country offers two gallon plants for only fifteen dollars. Grab them before they fly out the door.

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

 

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

 

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

 

 

 

A quart size of the sturdy-stemmed beauty Digitalis purpurea ‘Candy Mountain’ is a steal at five dollars. Unlike other foxgloves, this enchanting biennial’s rosy-pink flowers face upward, revealing its speckled throat. Anne Haines thinks the plants are “almost certain to bloom this year.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

 

 

Vegetable growers rave about Asparagus officinalis ‘Jersey Giant’, a hardy, long-lived, high-yielding, disease-resistant variety. (Planting instructions are provided on Deer Country’s website.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is but a taste of the amazing feast of deer-resistant plants offered by Deer Country Gardens. For easy access to their website, go to LINKS and click on.

2015 What’s New?: Camellia Forest Nursery

For hundreds of years plant explorers have trekked around the globe in search of fabulous new plants to enrich our landscapes. And the practice continues. David Parks, owner of Camellia Forest Nursery, recently flew to the Guangdong province of southern China “to look at some Camellias.”

The Camellias in question, hybrids of the summer blooming species Camellia azalea, enjoy an extended flowering season — from August to February. David is now working on bringing these extraordinary plants to the U.S. (Photos below of Camellia azalea and two of the hybrids.)

Camellia azalea copyright David Parks

Camellia azalea
copyright David Parks

 

Summer’s Sheen at Zhaoqing copyright David Parks

Summer’s Sheen at Zhaoqing
copyright David Parks

 

Tama Beauty x C. azalea 2 copyright David Parks

Tama Beauty x C. azalea
copyright David Parks

 

Equally exciting is Camellia Forest’s impressive inventory of 2015 available plants. Among them:

Camellia ‘Crimson Candles’

Credit Camellia Forest Nursery

credit Camellia Forest Nursery

A recent introduction from noted cold-hardy Camellia breeder, Dr. Clifford Parks, this beauty has it all. An abundance of dark red flower buds adorn the plant all winter (ergo the name ‘Crimson Candles’) and in early Spring it chases the winter blues away with bright rose-red flowers and bronzy-red new foliage. Add cold-hardiness, vigor and disease-resistance. My order is in.

Camellia ‘Black Magic’

Credit Camellia Forest Nursery

credit Camellia Forest Nursery

If you plant this unique late Spring bloomer as well, you will have the season covered. Black Magic is widely sought after for its unusual, glossy, dark red flowers and serrated evergreen foliage. One of a kind and interesting all year round.

Chionanthus retusus ‘Tokyo Tower'(a/k/a/ ‘Ivory Tower.)

 

Credit Camellia Forest Nursery

credit Camellia Forest Nursery

In 2006, a small plant created quite a wow at a Plant Propagators Meeting and sold for a whopping $500.00. This remarkably beautiful upright form of Chinese Fringe Tree is heavily cloaked in Spring with snowy-white clusters of fragrant flowers. The tree’s dark green leaves turn yellow in the Fall and its polished brown bark exfoliates. At maturity, the tree can grow to 15 feet high and three feet to six feet across. Hardy in zones 6-8.

For easy access to the Camilla Forest Nursery website, click on at LINKS.

2015 What’s New?

And the snow continues to fall.

copyright 2015 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 — Lois Sheinfeld

Doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m sitting by the fire reading about the 2015 plant offerings from Broken Arrow Nursery and dreaming about seasons to come. I’ve posted before about this Nursery, so onto the plants:

 

Abies koreana ‘Kohout’s Icebreaker’

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

This very slow-growing mini — increases only about an inch annually — was chosen by the American Conifer Society to be a 2014 Collector’s Conifer of the Year. Deservedly so. A standout evergreen with healthy, dense growth and beautiful silvery needles. In lieu of a dog or cat, highly pettable.

 

Pinus parviflora ‘Tani Mano Uki’

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another unique conifer, this Japanese White Pine cultivar delights with pink buds that open to white needles before eventually turning blue-green.

 

Clethra barbinervis ‘Takeda Nishiki’

 

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

A widely sought after variegated Clethra that’s all about the foliage, Takeda Nishiki sports dramatic green and pink leaves. At maturity, the deciduous shrub can attain a height of 6 feet.

 

 

Epimedium x ‘Pink Champagne’

 

 

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

 

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

 

Pink Champagne flaunts vibrant pink and raspberry flowers that float above the plant’s exquisite purple-mottled foliage. No wonder it is said to be the most beautiful Epimedium bred by the acclaimed plantsman and Epimedium guru, Darrell Probst. A splendid shade-loving, perennial ground-cover.

 

Skimmia japonica

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

male Skimmia — photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

 

photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

female Skimmia — photo courtesy of Broken Arrow Nursery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superb evergreen, fragrant-flowering shrub for shade. A treasure.  (For a detailed discussion of Skimmia’s attributes and requirements, see February 2013 Post: “Skimmia japonica: Shade Plant Sublime”.)

Rhododendrons ‘Jolly Jim’&’White Elegance’

Being snowed in has lost its allure.

In late January, loony Mother Nature sent nor’easter Juno to wreak her snowy havoc upon us: Ornamental trees were buried by half, outdoor benches largely disappeared, and doors of our home were blocked by over 2 feet of packed snow, cutting off all access to the world outside.

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

To add insult to injury, even if we managed to escape, our extremely long driveway was impassable. No possible ingress or egress by car or foot. Scary. So, after careful consideration, I took the only reasonable course of action left to me:  I’m in denial.

It’s not a bad place to be. I can ignore all the above and lose myself in dreams of Spring. In May, snowy white is a good thing, especially when it is produced by two accomplished Long Island, New York, plantsmen/breeders: the late Jim Cross with Rhododendron ‘Jolly Jim’ and Werner Brack with Rhododendron ‘White Elegance’.  (Photos below in order of mention.)

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Both plants are rarely available in the trade. For an opportunity to purchase these and other unique beauties, mark your calendars for the  2015 October 16-18 American Rhododendron Society Regional Conference on Long Island.

Much to look forward to.

UPDATE ALERT: You don’t have to wait until October to acquire the fabulous Rhododendron ‘White Elegance’; a limited number of plants will be available at the May 16, 2015 Plant Sale of The New York Chapter, American Rhododendron Society, to be held at Planting Fields, Long Island. Chapter website: nyrhododendron.org .

2015 What’s New?: Klehm’s Song Sparrow

It’s that time of year again: Mail-order nursery catalogs are arriving with their long-anticipated promise of Spring and of gardening anew. As usual, one of my all-time favorite nurseries, Klehm’s Song Sparrow, has a catalog filled with choice ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials. I’ve been a Klehm customer for over 20 years and can attest to the quality of their plants and customer service. Needless to say, the most difficult thing is limiting my 2015 choices.

Selecting the first two plants on my list was not difficult. Nursery owner, Roy Klehm, is an accomplished hybridizer of peonies and daylilies, and since I wrote about his peonies last year (See Post “2014: What’s New”), his daylilies have been rightly demanding equal time. A good place to start:

Hemerocallis ‘Bearded Dragons’

 

photo credit:  www.songsparrow.com

photo credit: www.songsparrow.com

 

One look was enough. My order is in for this exquisite daylily with flowers of royal purple edged with creamy-yellow ruffling. Mesmerizing! Think runway and Alexander McQueen.

 

Hemerocallis ‘Rumba Picotee’

photo credit:  www.songsparrow.com

photo credit: www.songsparrow.com

 

I was also captivated by the recently introduced Rumba Picotee, an ivory-buff daylily painted with a green throat, a rich purple flare, and a purple ruffled edge. Moreover, the 6 inch flowers are fragrant. A most welcome bonus.

As my readers know, I am a fragrance groupie, constantly on the prowl for beautiful and hardy perfumed plants. Klehm’s Song Sparrow shares my addiction, as evidenced by the upcoming parade:

 

Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’

image courtesy of Proven Winners

image courtesy of Proven Winners

 

The clematis vine, Sweet Summer Love, inherited the important attributes of fragrance, health and vigor from one parent—the floriferous, snowy-white-flowered Autumn Clematis (See Post, “Fall 2014: The Fragrant Garden”)—and from the other parent (unknown), the assets of cranberry-violet color and summer flowering. A winning combination.

 

Clematis tangutica ‘Helios’

photo credit:  www.songsparrow.com

photo credit: www.songsparrow.com

photo credit:  www.songsparrow.com

photo credit: www.songsparrow.com

 

Golden-flowered Helios has small, coconut scented, bell-shaped flowers in summer, followed by awesome, silky, seed heads. A compact grower, it would be perfect in a container, or growing through a shrub.

Klehm’s ships two-year-old Clematis plants, well rooted and trellised. They have always bloomed the first season in my garden. (Note: This is my experience, not a Klehm guarantee.)

 

Lonicera periclymenum ‘Peaches and Cream’

image courtesy of BallHort

image courtesy of BallHort

 

Every garden should have at least one fabulously fragrant Honeysuckle vine. I have several, but I’m adding super-compact Peaches and Cream for its non-stop, spring to late summer bloom, and vibrant pink buds that open to ivory and peach flowers.

 

Tree Peony ‘Joseph Rock’

photo credit:  www.songsparrow.com

photo credit: www.songsparrow.com

 

This rare heirloom plant is celebrated and highly prized for its beauty, vigor and fragrance. An elegant garden jewel that will lend radiance and gravitas to any landscape.

 

Tree Peony ‘Shima Nishiki’

photo credit:  www.songsparrow.com

photo credit: www.songsparrow.com

 

For years I having been searching high and low, without success, for a variegated Tree Peony. Finally, there it was, calling out to me from page 49 of Klehm’s print catalog, the gorgeous red and white Shima Nishiki, plant of my dreams. And it is even said to be mildly fragrant. Amen to that!

Can’t wait for Spring.

To easily access Klehm’s website, go to LINKS and click on.

January 2015: Abelia mosanensis

News Flash! A shocking report out of Japan: A tomato was sentenced to the electric chair.

Well, not really . . . but almost. Researchers from Kinki University, Osaka, successfully rid tomato plants of powdery mildew by zapping them with an electrical charge. And the plants were not harmed. Remarkable.

Perhaps someday we will easily zap away every plant disease. Until then, in my organic garden, I try to avoid problems at the outset by buying hardy, disease-resistant plants. I also favor plants with multi-seasons of interest and fragrance. (Intense fragrance if possible, in order to compensate for one’s likely diminishing sense of smell with age.)

Abelia mosanensis (Fragrant Abelia) possesses all of these attributes and more:

Fragrant Abelia, a native of Korea, is an extremely cold-hardy (zone 5, maybe 4) deciduous shrub. For about a two-three week period in May-June, it produces masses of small, very fragrant flowers with pink buds that open white. (Photos below.) The delicious perfume travels on the air through the garden.

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

I should mention that the plantsman, Michael Dirr, has cautioned that “the plant is bedraggled by late summer in zone 7 . . .  and does not prosper in zone 7 heat.” Maybe so, in southern zone 7 where he gardens. Not so for zone 7 in the Northeast where I garden. In fact, far from it! Here, when the flowers fade, whorls of showy green calyxes (sepals) take center stage and the vibrant plant appears to be covered in charming green flowers, with just a hint of pink, that persist until the leaves drop in winter. (Photos below)

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

On the other hand, I should mention that while some sources report that the shrub’s foliage turns red-orange in the Fall, sadly mine has had little to no autumnal color to speak of.

Abelia mosanensis will thrive in sun or shade, in moist, well-drained, acid soil. It’s an easy-care, disease-resistant plant with many virtues. Plants are available from Camellia Forest Nursery.  For easy access to their website, go to LINKS and click on.)

A Happy New Year to all!

 

December 2014: Pieris japonica ‘Bert Chandler’

l am in awe of the evergreen shrubs that delight the eye in the winter landscape. In my garden, they must also earn their keep for the rest of the year.

As you know, I’m very partial to deer-resistant — deer-proof for me — shade-loving, fragrant-flowering, evergreen Pieris; I grow, lecture, and write about a diverse assortment of wonderful cultivars that enjoy multi-seasons of interest. Pieris japonica ‘Bert Chandler’ is my latest addition and addiction.

My young shrub hasn’t flowered yet but Bert is really all about the foliage. In the Spring, his new growth emerges pink, then turns white, and finally a rich green. A heavenly display! (Photos below.)

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I’ve paired Bert with two complementary plants: a pink-flowering Rhododendron (seen above peeking out from the top of the first photo) and, mirroring Bert’s foliage, a pink and white flowering Enkianthus. (Photo below.)  A charming May threesome.

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Finally, either as another companion plant for Bert, or, as in my garden, a stand-alone-star, the luminous Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’ (a/k/a “Floating Clouds”) deserves to be on your holiday wish list. (Check out the photo below of Ukigumo in May, newly dressed in bridal-white. Magical!)

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wishing You All A Wonderful Holiday And A Joyful, Healthy, New Year!

 

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

 

Fall 2014: Autumn Splendor

Elaeagnus umbellata (Autumn-olive)

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

A favorite of migrating songbirds, this large, tree-like shrub has a reputation as an aggressive garden bully. It’s a reputation well deserved. Blame it on the birds: They find the succulent, red autumn fruit irresistible and disperse the seeds far and wide.

Yet, for many years I have grown and treasured five multibranched, shapely plants. Yes, I’m forever pulling up unwanted seedlings, but, on balance, Autumn-olive’s virtues far outweigh the bother.

Every Spring, the shrub’s lovely white flowers release an intoxicating perfume that travels on the air. (Love those fragrant plants!) And the abundant berries produced in the Fall are very showy. As are the silvery undersides of the shrub’s green foliage.

Given acid, well-drained soil, Autumn-olive is easy-care, hardy, drought tolerant and shade tolerant.

And, most important, if you grow Elaeagnus umbellata, the birds will thank you.

Note: Autumn-olive is very similar to Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), which sports gray-green foliage and yellow fruit.

 

Viburnum sargentii ‘Onondaga’

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

What a grand shrub this is! Introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum in 1966, Onondaga, a multi-season performer, deserves a wider audience. In Spring, the new soft foliage emerges bronzy-pink before turning green. Then in May, the shrub produces fabulous lace-cap type, bicolor flowers, with dark-pink budded centers edged with snowy-white florets.

And, as shown in the photos above, it’s a showstopper in the Fall when the leaves turn to shades of glowing pink.

My 8 foot plant flourishes in shade and for over fifteen years has been easy-care and disease-free.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. More garden splendor to come.

Fall 2014: The Fragrant Garden

Isn’t it amazing what some academics will do to distinguish themselves from the rest of the herd?

Kate McLean, who teaches at Canterbury Christ Church University in Britain, is wandering the streets of New York conducting Smellwalks and collecting data for the creation of a Smellmap of the city. No kidding. She has already Smellmapped several cities in Europe.

“It’s a completely different way,” she said, “of knowing the world.”

On Wednesday, September 10, she led a nosy group of 24 on a sniffing tour of Brooklyn. According to the New York Times’s intrepid reporter, who covered the event, they experienced and recorded smells of “car exhaust, subway grit and festering sewer”, not to mention a “pungent stench” reminiscent of “conditions perilous to human life”. (The New York Times, 9/12/2014, p. A27.)

Different strokes for different folks. All I want to smell are the delicious, sweet perfumes of my fragrant plants. Please join me now on an autumn Fragrantgardenwalk focusing on a favorite tree, rose, and vine:

Cercidiphyllum japonicum  (Katsura tree)

For about a week, the senescent foliage of this beautiful, deciduous tree has been filling the garden with the scent of caramel. It’s intoxicating — like living near a candy factory.

In the Spring, the Katsura tree’s lovely heart-shaped leaves emerge a rosy-pink, then turn green for the rest of the growing season. Before the leaves drop, they turn yellow with hints of pink, and only then release their fragrance into the air. (Photos below)

copyright 2013 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

There are upright and weeping varieties of Cercidiphyllum. I grow both forms. And when the trees advance through the growing season on different schedules, I reap the benefit of an extended window of yummy aroma. (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

Katsuras do require adequate moisture. They don’t like it dry. Otherwise, they have been problem-free.

 

Rosa ‘Lyda Rose’

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

For fragrance, beauty, good health, hardiness, and continuous bloom from May to frost, USA-bred Lyda Rose is unmatched. The bees agree. ( Note the photos below with the bee pileup—two bees sweetly nestled in one flower!)

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

Lyda can take a bit of shade. And she’ll do well in a pot. Trust me: To know her is to love her.

 

Clematis terniflora  (Sweetautumn Clematis)

copyright 2014 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

When I walk out my front door onto the front porch, I’m greeted by the sweetly fragrant flowers of the autumn clematis vine. By wrapping an Ilex pedunculosa in its soft embrace, it managed to climb 14 feet into the air, peek over the porch railing, and say Hi.

Moreover, the vine attained this height in one growing season. A piece of cake for an established plant; it can grow to 20 feet after being hard-pruned to the ground in Spring. And once established, it should be hard-pruned because it flowers on new growth. When the flowers fade, they produce interesting, showy seed heads.

The vigorous vine does tend to volunteer all over the place — ofttimes unnoticed until the flowers appear in the Fall. This may be a major drawback for some, especially in formal gardens. Yet, for the most part, I allow it to scramble about. I like pleasant, flowerly surprises.

BTW, Clematis terniflora does not harm its host plant.

 

Fragrant plants add so much pleasure to a garden. Why not grow a symphony of sweet scents?

2014: Variegated,Vivacious, & Vigorous

When we lived in California, friends gave us an opulent orchid plant from a specialty nursery. It arrived with registration papers evidencing a royal pedigree as long as your arm.  In short order Her Orchidness checked us out, concluded rightly that she was adopted by peasants, and promptly committed suicide. We were devastated.

From that time, with few exceptions, we have tried to avoid iffy plants that require a lot of pampering. Don’t like it when they die. And careful selection is even more important now that Mother Nature has turned into a Loony Bird.

I’m nuts about variegated-foliage plants but they are particularly problematic; too often, while the standard form may be hardy and vigorous, its variegated version is not.

Therefore, it is entirely appropriate on Labor Day to celebrate three wonderful variegated plants that will work for you, not the other way around. All have survived and thrived in my garden despite Mother Nature at her most demented:

Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wow. A hardy, variegated Japanese Maple. For me, it doesn’t get better than that. And Japanese Maple guru J.D. Vertrees has deemed Ukigumo one of the “most outstanding” variegated cultivars.

Ukigumo means “floating clouds”, an apt description. The photos above chart its lovely, blended, green-white-pink coloration changes through the seasons. For optimum performance, this stunning shrub requires shade.

A slow grower, after many years Ukigumo may reach ten feet.

 

 

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’

 

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

With its dramatic green and white foliage, unique horizontal branching and vigorous growth, this is truly a beautiful, awe-inspiring Dogwood.

In my garden, it has been moved twice — once when it was molested by deer and again when it outgrew its space — without trauma or setback. And it has come through horrific winters unscathed.  One tough cookie!

Grown in shade, after about twenty years the tree is approximately 18 feet tall and nine feet wide and, apart from the deer, has been problem free.

 

Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’

 

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I was never a fan of Boxwood and came into possession of this plant quite by chance. (See December 2011 Post: “Pest Alert: Box Tree Caterpillar.”)

As you can see from the photos, it’s become quite a handsome plant. And, to my surprise, it hasn’t been beset by pest or disease. And, to my further surprise, I rather like it.

Happy Holiday!

UPDATE 2015: Box died from disease. I don’t recommend it. 

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

May-June 2014: Seeing Red 2

Wait. Have patience. Do nothing.

Hard advice for a gardener to follow, but follow we must. This harsh winter brought a number of plants to their knees. Some, like the hydrangeas, died to the ground — all of the top growth was gone. Others, namely several evergreen shrubs of Osmanthus fortunei ‘UNC’, lost most of their leaves and looked like bare-stemmed corpses.

Wait. Have patience. Do nothing.

When plants have suffered severe winter die-back, they must be allowed time to recover. One of my favorite garden writers, Henry Mitchell, advised waiting several months — a year for tender shrubs — before signing the death certificate. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait that long. Within a month all were showing new growth. Didn’t lose a one. They were down but not out.

Moreover, some plants didn’t suffer at all — in fact, they never looked better. My last post celebrated a few. Here are a few more top-performing, winter-defying reds:

Remember Rhododendron ‘Francesca’ in bud? Her flowers are equally lovely.

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Deciduous azalea, Rhododendron ‘Arneson’s Ruby Princess’, looked OK in 2013, but this year she was an attention-grabbing knockout in both bud and flower.

 

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 award-winning peony, Paeonia ‘America’.

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And my go-to container annual, the glorious Begonia ‘Encanto Red’, is off to a fine start.

copyright 2014  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

Encanto Red will bloom non-stop until frost. See photo below taken in October last year. Something to look forward to.

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

May 2014: Seeing Red

I’m seeing red.

The demonic photo-eating terrorists have returned.  Since my last Post, countless photos have again disappeared from this blog. I’m bereft. I’m frustrated. I don’t know how to stop it from happening.  A double pox on the varlets responsible!!!!!

Among the missing are several snowy-winter pictures of  my trees and the stately Hanging Tree in Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village, New York. Tree-hating varlets! ( See “Winter 2014: Hug a Tree and Danger Alert”)

While it was a touch-and-go winter, the Hanging Tree has now leafed out — an intrepid survivor. So, FIE ON THE VARLETS! Below is a recent photo of Washington Square Park with the Elm on the left, and on the upper right-hand side a glimpse of a red building, New York University’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library. Seeing red is not always a bad thing.

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

And I’m especially thrilled seeing the color red in my garden this month. Here’s why:

Early on we delighted in a brief but memorable visit from a hungry, shy Scarlet Tanager, followed soon after by a young male Red-bellied Woodpecker who has taken up permanent residence. He is most welcome, but if he doesn’t find a mate soon and cease his persistent drilling on the house and pitiful, yearning cries, I’m signing him up with a matchmaking service. (Four photos follow, two of each bird.)

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

In my previous Post in April, “Spring 2014: Snow-White Extravaganza”, I waxed eloquent about Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’, showed photos of its fragrant flowers, and mentioned the fire-engine-red new foliage growth to come. It’s here now and it’s spectacular.

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Variegated Pieris japonica ‘Flaming Silver’ also flaunts glowing red new foliage, which contrasts well with the black-red leaves of Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ in the background.  (Note: Maple guru J. D. Vertrees said that “Bloodgood is the standard by which all other red cultivars are judged.” A great compliment, indeed.)

 

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Similarly dazzling in black-red are the flower buds of one of my favorite Rhododendrons, R. ‘Francesca.’ (Photos below.)

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

A new favorite Rhododendron planted this Spring, aptly named R. ‘White Elegance’, has snowy-white flowers with a vibrant red starburst center. Irresistible! And it flowers at a young age, has good foliage, and can take deep shade. White Elegance was bred by a very accomplished local hybridizer from St. James, N.Y., Werner Brack. (More about Werner and his fabulous hybrids in a future post.) Photos of R. ‘White Elegance’ below. A perfect ending for this smashing parade of RED.

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

 

 

 

Spring 2014: Snow-White Extravaganza

The birds are singing love songs, the bumble bees are buzzing and the forsythia is in bloom. It must be Spring. AT LAST! Thought it would never come.

When Vita Sackville West created the celebrated and widely copied White Garden at Sissinghurst, it was meant to be viewed in  summer; the plants — lilies, roses, delphiniums, etc. — were at their flowering peak in July and August. While I don’t have a White Garden, I’m quite fond of easy-care white flowering trees and shrubs, especially the early Spring bloomers. After our horrific winters, these beauties are a joy to behold:

 

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ (Zones 4-7)

copyright 2013 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

copyright 2013 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

I have been growing this sensational evergreen shrub for over twenty years and I recommend it without reservation. To my mind, it’s a perfect plant. P. japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ has bloomed reliably every year, cloaking itself with an abundance of pendulous, snowy-white, fragrant, urn-shaped flowers that attract bees and butterflies. When the flowers fade, the new foliage growth is a dramatic fire-engine red, fading to copper, and then dark green.

New flower buds form in summer adding to Fall and Winter interest. Truly a four-season performer. And the shrub is deer-resistant. (In my garden it has been deer-free, even before our garden became a formidable fenced fortress.)

Pieris does require organic rich, well-drained acid soil, and adequate moisture. And most important, plant in shade. If planted in sun, Pieris is vulnerable to ruinous lace bug attack.

My shrubs are now about 12 feet tall — ideal evergreens for hiding anything untoward — but you can hard prune after flowering if you prefer smaller plants. Or try Pieris x ‘Spring Snow’, a cross between our native P. floribunda and P. japonica, which won’t exceed 3 feet in height and also produces radiant spring flowers. ( Photo below.) The new foliage has pleasing coppery shades.

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Rhododendron ‘White Surprise’ (Zones 6-8)

copyright 2013 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

This lepidote Rhododendron, a Gustav Mehlquist hybrid, is another old-timer in my garden.  Like Pieris, it is a dazzling, reliable  bloomer — never missing a year despite having been moved three times. A can-do plant. The flowers are pure white with just a sweet dusting of lime-green freckles on an upper petal, and they are very attractive to bees. ( In my garden that’s a good thing. A very good thing.)

After fifteen years my White Surprise is about six feet tall. Its culture requirements are similar to Pieris, though it would probably appreciate and benefit from a bit of sun.

(Note: Another Mehlquist hybrid you might like is the compact, semi-dwarf elepidote, Rhododendron ‘Ingrid Mehlquist, which flaunts lovely, frilly pink flowers later in the season. One of my favorites.)

 

 

Prunus ‘Snow Fountain’ (a/k/a ‘White Fountain’) (Zones 6-8)

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

My Spring garden is full of wonder and surprise. I’m especially careful when I rake and weed because I never know what  wonderful plants may magically appear — like seedlings of Prunus ‘Snow Fountain’.

Over twenty years ago at the Philadelphia flower show I saw this luminous weeping cherry for the first time.  Awestruck, I had to have it. Easier said than done. The tree had no identifying tag, it wasn’t part of a sponsored exhibit, and no one knew anything about it. Kidnapping crossed my mind but this angel’s 12 foot wide wingspan smothered in snowy-white blossoms was a tad much for the Metroliner.

As soon as I got home I hit the phones; the tree was identified and two months later a lovely young clone of the Philly angel was mine. Unlike other cherries, Snow Fountain has been disease-free and — save for the nibbling of rabbits — pest-free as well. It flourishes in the shade of deciduous oaks, blooms reliably every year, and is breathtaking in the fall when the foliage turns autumnal shades of red, orange and gold.

Even before all of the tree’s flower buds fully open, adoring bumble bees are paying homage. Moreover, when the fragrant flowers fade, the tree produces tiny ornamental fruit beloved of songbirds. Ergo, the seedling treasures that volunteer in the garden every now and then.

Ain’t Mother Nature grand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014: What’s New? Part 3

The “miraculous power of gardening: it evokes tomorrow, it is eternally forward-looking, it invites plans and ambitions, creativity, expectation…. Gardening defies time; you think in seasons to come.” So said award-winning author Penelope Lively in her latest book, Dancing Fish And Ammonites. And so say I. Fie on this horrific winter! I’m planning for Spring.

Over 20 years ago, the late, great plantsman, Jim Cross, pointed me in the direction of Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, CT.  The Nursery was for a time a rather small operation, with a mimeographed plant list of 4 or 5 pages stapled together, and sales only on site. Broken Arrow’s current inventory includes over 1,500 woody ornamentals and perennials. (At present, Broken Arrow’s website and online sales are not operational.)

For my garden this year, I largely focused on Broken Arrow’s collection of Japanese Maples:

Acer palmatum ‘Koto no ito’ (Zones 5-8)

credit  Broken Arrow Nursery

credit Broken Arrow Nursery

Koto no ito means Harp Strings. True to its name this small, elegant tree has delightful, string-like foliage. New growth is green with red tones, becoming green in summer and then shades of gold, orange and red in the fall. (Note: For many Japanese maples, leaf color is variable, depending on the degree of light exposure; this may account for the differing views on seasonal color expressed by various reference texts.)

 

Acer palmatum ‘Fairy Hair’ (Zones 6-8)

credit  Broken Arrow Nursery

credit Broken Arrow Nursery

This slow-growing, dwarf maple’s mature height will probably not exceed 3 feet. Its unique, fine, thread-like foliage is orange-red in spring, green in summer, and orange-red again in fall. The tree has an ethereal quality, impossible to resist.

 

Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’ (Zones 5-8)

credit  Broken Arrow Nursery

credit Broken Arrow Nursery

Highly prized for its showy, colorful foliage – burnt-orange and pink in spring, chartreuse with touches of peach in summer, and autumnal shades of gold, red and orange in fall – Autumn Moon is a show-stopper.

For comprehensive information about Japanese Maples see Japanese Maples: The Complete Guide to Selection and Cultivation (Timber Press, Fourth Edition 2009)

And for successful companion planting, I like to partner Japanese Maples with Rhododendrons; they have similar culture requirements. A particular Rhododendron favorite is the divine, snowy-white, purple-flared, R.’Calsap’, purchased by me from Broken Arrow over fifteen years ago. (Below are photos of my Calsap in the garden.)

copyright 2013  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

For 2014 I’m also adding to the mix a new plant offering from Broken Arrow, Bletilla striata ‘Yellow Striped’ (Zones 6-9),  a recent woodland orchid introduction from Japan. This lovely has a reputation as a tough, long-blooming perennial. (Photo below.)

copyright  -  Shikoko Garden, Japan

copyright – Shikoku Garden, Japan

 

The orchid has green leaves striped with creamy-yellow, and charming magenta flowers for three to four weeks in late-Spring, early-Summer. It’s a spreader – but not fast enough for some! And it too shares similar culture needs with the maples.

Update 2015: The bletillas didn’t survive. Voles, perhaps?

 

 

 

2014: What’s New? Part 2

Camellia Forest Nursery has a nonpareil inventory of camellias, as well as a fine selection of unique trees and shrubs, many that are hard – if not impossible – to find in the trade. Here are my 2014 choices, plus a few old favorites:

Camellia japonica ‘April Blues’

April Blues is a new addition to the outstanding April Series of zone 6, cold-hardy camellias, introduced by the acclaimed camellia hybridizer, Dr. Clifford Parks. (Dr. Parks’s wife and son are co-owners of Camellia Forest Nursery.) Aptly named, the plant’s deep pink flowers take on interesting bluish-purplish tones in cool weather. The camellia is a late Spring, prodigious bloomer. (No photo currently available.)

You might also like one of my older japonica favorites, the lovely bi-color, eighteenth century introduction, Camellia japonica ‘Governor Mouton’.  (Photo below.)

copyright 2012 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Consider, too, the Nursery’s extensive collection of fragrant, hardy, Fall blooming sasanquas, including the sought after but difficult to find pink beauty, Camellia sasanqua ‘Jean May’.  (Photo below.)

copyright 2012  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

In my garden, Jean May has bloomed from September to frost, even in 2012 when she thumbed her nose at the Oct.-Nov. combined assault of Hurricane Sandy and a Nor’easter. The Nursery has a limited supply; grab one while you can. (See also my earlier post of December 2, 2012, “Fabulous Camellias for Northern Gardens: Autumn Flowering Sasanquas”.)

 

Disanthus cercidifolius (Zones 5-8)

photo credit: Camellia Forest Nursery

photo credit: Camellia Forest Nursery

With its pretty, heart-shaped, blue-green leaves that in autumn turn fabulous shades of red and purple, this award-winning, relatively rare, deciduous ornamental shrub is an ideal plant for a shady garden. Disanthus thrives in acidic, organic-rich, moist, well-drained soil – a perfect companion for rhododendrons – and is both pest-resistant and disease-resistant. An added bonus are the surprising, dainty, reddish-purple flowers that show up at about the same time the leaves drop.

 

Acer caudatifolium ‘Variegatum’ (Zones 7-9)

photo credit: Camellia Forest Nursery

photo credit: Camellia Forest Nursery

 

photo credit: Camellia Forest Nursery

photo credit: Camellia Forest Nursery

I’m very excited about this dazzling Taiwanese Striped-Bark Maple that flaunts pink-flushed new growth which becomes a variegated, rich green splashed with white, and then turns a brilliant orange-gold in autumn. Moreover, young trees sport exquisite, creamy-white bark. Amazing! Provide moist, well-drained soil in shade.

 

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa Nana’ (Dwarf Japanese Cedar, Zones 6-8)

While Globosa Nana is a wonderful, award-winning dwarf conifer, it is not generally available. I bought one from Camellia Forest about five years ago and now have a second on order. The plant has an appealing, dense, dome-shaped form and a well-behaved mounding habit so you never have to prune a wayward stem. It is said to have a mature height of from 4-6 feet, but it’s a slow grower. (Photo below of Globosa Nana in my garden, alongside Magnolia ‘Yellow River’.)

copyright 2013 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

You can easily access Camellia Forest’s 2014 catalog by clicking on the blog link to the right.

 

As I write this, we are snowed (iced?) in again. What a winter! Not much I can do about it but dream of Spring. And feed our friends.

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

2/23 Update Alert: Camellia Forest’s printed 2014 35th Anniversary Plant Catalog is now available.

2014: What’s New?

We gardeners are a curious, acquisitive lot, always looking over the horizon, searching for the next best thing. I’m delighted to share with you some of my fabulous finds — exciting 2014 plant offerings of favorite mail order nurseries.

First up, Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery, which has an extensive collection of ornamental trees, shrubs, vines and perennials. I’ve been a Klehm customer for over 20 years and gladly attest to the quality of their plants. Almost all are shipped in containers, which not only ensures a safer transport but eliminates the frenzied need to put them in the ground the moment they arrive. A big plus for me.

But enough about me. As Elmore Leonard advised in 10 Rules of Writing, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” So, on to the plants:

Heuchera ‘Blondie’ (zones 4-9)

photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Most heucheras  produce pink or white flowers for a short time in summer or early fall, but the unique, enchanting mini, Blondie, flaunts an abundance of lovely creamy-yellow flowers in spring, summer, and fall. Colorful foliage enhances the plant’s presence and value. A splendid perennial ground cover or specimen plant for shade.

 

Heuchera ‘Cajun Fire’ (zones 4-9)

photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

A new introduction from Terra Nova Nursery, Cajun Fire is all about foliage; through the growing seasons its leaves change from striking shades of red to a rich maroon. Tall white flower spikes heighten the display in summer. Another choice perennial for a shady garden.

Clematis viticella I am Lady J, ‘Zoiamij’ (zones 4-9)

copyright J. van Zoest B.V.

copyright J. van Zoest B.V.

 

Lady J captured my heart with her small, showy, milky-white centered, purple-edged flowers. It was love at first sight, though I’m rather partial to the entire small-flowered viticella group. They are beautiful, reliable, vigorous, cold-hardy plants, untroubled by the scourge of large-flowered clematis, the dreaded clematis wilt.

As for cultivation, at one time it was generally accepted that clematis should be planted with its feet in the shade and its head in the sun, but that is no longer the case. With adequate moisture, viticellas, for example, do quite well in sun or shade. And while conventional wisdom dictated a clematis preference for sweet (alkaline) soil, now that too is an open question. Nonetheless, when I plant, I add lime to my acid soil.

Klehm ships 2-year-old, well-rooted, trellised plants, which have always bloomed for me the first season. (Note: This has been my experience, not a Klehm guarantee.)

And do check out Klehm’s outstanding selection of peonies. They range from an old-fashioned, fragrant favorite, ‘Mrs Franklin D Roosevelt’, to modern dazzler ‘Circus Circus’ and luscious pink confection, ‘She’s My Star’. (The last two are introductions of foremost peony breeder and Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery owner, Roy Klehm.)  Peony photos below in order of mention.

photo credit - Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery

photo credit – Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery

 

photo credit - Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery

photo credit – Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery

 

photo credit - Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery

photo credit – Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery

 

Tip: Peonies do require a sweet soil; if your soil is acid, add lime.

To easily access Klehm’s Song Sparrow catalog, click on their Link from my blog. (See also my earlier January 9, 2013 blog post about the nursery, “2013 The Next Best Thing: Part 2”.)

2014: My Favorite Deciduous Azaleas

Like Alice, I fear we have fallen down the rabbit hole. It’s loony tunes out there.

The New York Times reported that the nation’s largest food and beverage companies are seeking FDA approval to label as “natural” foods laced with genetically modified organisms (GMO’S). (The New York Times, December 20, 2013, p.B3)

Huh?

Hard to believe, but true. The same folks who are spending millions of dollars in a nation-wide campaign to prevent GMO food labeling, thus denying consumers the right to make informed choices, are now shamelessly demanding the right to label their GMO-laboratory-designed-food, “NATURAL”. 

Thank goodness we can retreat to the sanity and comfort of the garden — in mind and spirit, if not in person — and dream about the upcoming joys of Spring, namely, Mother Nature’s sweet progeny, Deciduous Azaleas. Here are some of my favorites:

Rhododendron ‘Arneson Ruby’. (Zones 5-8).

As you can see from the photos, this exquisite show-stopper has ball-shaped trusses of purple-red buds, opening in May to vibrant ruby-red flowers. The plant is a hardy, disease-resistant, upright grower that can reach 5-6 feet in height.

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

If you aren’t into upright and tall, I recommend R. ‘Arneson’s Ruby Princess’ with similar ruby-red flowers on a mounding azalea that most likely will not exceed 3 feet. The Princess shares Ruby’s cold hardiness and good health and possesses the additional attribute of attractive dense foliage. (Photo below.)

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

In my garden, R. ‘Arneson Ruby’ grows alongside another May bloomer, Rhododendron ‘Klondyke’ (Zones 5-8), an azalea highly prized for its beautiful, fragrant, golden-orange flowers, complemented by handsome bronzy-green new foliage. (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

 

For those seeking fragrant flowers, Rhododendron ‘Narcissiflora’ (Zones 5-8) is a must-have. This tall, vigorous, old-timer flaunts masses of bright yellow flowers that fill the air with sweet perfume. And as for white-flowering azaleas, there’s none better than the uber-fragrant “twins”, Rhododendrons ‘Snowbird’ and ‘Fragrant Star.’ (Zones 4-8)  (Photos below in order of mention.)

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

All of these deciduous azaleas have been time-tested and flourish in my organic, toxic-chemical-free garden. They require acid, well-drained soil and can tolerate — even appreciate — more sun than their big cousins, the Elepidote Rhododendrons. [See also: June 14, 2013 post, “Evergreen Azaleas: La Crème de la Crème”, and for comprehensive information on all things azalea, Azaleas by Fred C. Galle (Timber Press. 1999).]