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Japanese Maple: Acer palmatum ‘Seiryu’ & Update: Begonia ‘Encanto Red’

Acer palmatum ‘Seiryu’ (Zones 6-8)

Henry Mitchell, author and garden writer extraordinaire, once said of his garden, “it is the cycle, not the instant, that makes the day worth living”. I agree. Enriching the garden experience year-round is the raison d’être of one of my favorite plants, award-winning Acer p. Seiryu’. The plant is quite unique, one of the few Japanese Maple upright dissectum cultivars. Conventional lace-leaved maples weep or cascade.

In the Fall, this lovely multi-branched tree’s fine, bright green foliage turns into a handsome palette of autumnal colors. As evidenced by the photos below, the colors are constantly mixing and changing; ultimately, before the leaves drop, they settle for a spectacular fiery display. And did I mention that Seiryu’s bark is a fabulous shade of green?

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

Japanese Maples flourish in shade, in well-drained acid soil with adequate water. In my organic garden, Seiryu has been a vigorous grower and disease free. Seiryu means blue-green dragon. Surely every garden needs one of those.

My tree came from RareFind Nursery. (See LINKS)

 

Update: Begonia ‘Encanto Red’

Speaking of interesting growing cycles, Begonia ‘Encanto Red’ deserves an updated mention. (See the June 3, 2013 blog post, “Beguiling Begonias”.) Encanto Red is a summer-fall, non-stop annual. In the Spring, pop it into a container in a bit of shade and then stand back and enjoy: As the months go by, the flower show gets better and better. (May-October photos below tell the story.)

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

Purple-leafed Canna ‘Australia’ plays well with ‘Encanto Red’.

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday and New Year.!

Autumn 2013: Japanese Maples

The foliage color of Japanese maples has been nothing short of spectacular, getting better and better with each passing day. I’ll let the trees speak for themselves:

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

DSCN4117

 

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

I’m equally captivated by maples that possess beautiful bark color, form, etc., so I’m going to devise a lecture — and blog posts — focusing on outstanding cultivars for the home garden. Stay tuned.

For now, I’m thinking about Thanksgiving and I’m delighted to share my recipe for cranberry sauce. It’s so simple and delicious you’ll never used canned again.

 

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Combine in a saucepan two cups of sugar and one cup of water. Bring to a boil without stirring. Cook this syrup for 5 minutes over medium heat. Meanwhile, wash 1 lb of raw cranberries, add them to the syrup and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until they burst. Then, remove the pan from the heat and stir in one-half cup of apricot jam and one-quarter cup of fresh lemon juice. Chill the sauce. Makes about 1 quart. I usually double or triple the recipe because it stays well in the fridge and it’s versatile—wonderful on toast for breakfast or with chicken for dinner. And, if you are feeling generous, spoon the sauce into pretty jars and give them as gifts. Enjoy!

Note: For another great Thanksgiving idea see my November 13, 2012 post, “Superstorm Sandy & Rosa Pretty Lady”

 

September 2013 : Begonias, Act 2.

Since my June 3 Post, “Beguiling Begonias”, the stars of the piece have been in continuous, glorious bloom, admired by one and all. And they show no sign of stopping. Outstanding annuals for outdoor containers!

My favorite? A difficult choice, but based on flower and foliage I guess B. x benariensis ‘Whopper Red with Bronze Leaf’ has a slight edge. (Recent photos below).

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

With the advent of autumn, Begonia grandis jumps in and demands equal billing. This winter-hardy, low-growing perennial is one tough customer. Years ago it began life in a shady border and when attacked by voles packed its bags and moved to the safety of the adjacent gravel path where it thrives and self-seeds. I never cease to marvel at the ingenuity of plants.

The begonia has lovely, heart-shaped green leaves with bright, reddish-maroon veined undersides, and clusters of Fall-blooming, pendent, dainty white blossoms. (Photos below). While there is also a pink flowering form—an equally vigorous, reliable bloomer—I favor white flowers because they  stand out better in shade, Begonia grandis’s preferred location. With well-drained soil and adequate moisture the plant will prosper.

 

copyright 2012  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

copyright 2012  -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

 

Summer 2013: A Tale of Two Dazzling Dogwoods

Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Milky Way’ (Zones 5-8) is a summer celebration all by itself. Believe it or not, it has been in continuous bloom since June, two months and counting. For flower power, no other tree in our area comes close. (Photo proof below: June, July & August.)

 

copyright 2013  -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013  -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013  -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

I purchased Milky Way in 1995 because it was said to have an “extended period of bloom”. An understatement, to be sure. It certainly has exceeded all expectation. Moreover, when the flowers finally fade, the tree produces abundant, showy, raspberry-like red fruit beloved by song-birds, and in the Fall, before the leaves drop, its dark green foliage turns glorious shades of autumnal orange. A dramatic multi-season performer.

Kousa dogwoods are free of the dreaded anthracnose disease that has devastated our native population of dogwood, Cornus florida. Indeed, for the eighteen years it has graced my organic garden, Milky Way has been entirely disease-free. The tree flourishes in rich, moist, acid, well-drained soil. While the literature calls for a sunny location, mine does well in shade.

(Warning Note: Be aware that Milky Way is said to have confused parentage resulting in possible variations in the trees offered for sale.)

 

Cornus kousa ‘Summer Gold’ (Zones 5-8), purchased this Spring, is a new variegated dogwood introduction with radiant green foliage thickly edged in gold. Unique and fabulous! (Photos below.)

copyright 2013  -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

For added interest, creamy white flowers appear in Spring and its Fall foliage is a vibrant red. This tree is very compact, 8-10 feet at maturity, making it a perfect addition for a small garden. I planted Summer Gold near Milky Way so I can sit on my bench and admire both at the same time. (The first photo shows their proximity.) They share the same culture requirements.

 

 

Update of Post August 11, 2012

I’m delighted to report that Hibiscus ‘Jazzberry Jam’ is reliably perennial. It came back this year a-bursting with flowers. (Photo below.)

copyright 2013  -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

Hot Tips: Something Old and Something New . . .

Something New Up First.

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

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

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

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

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

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

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

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

 

 

Evergreen Azaleas: La Crème de la Crème

For flower power and multi-seasons of interest in a shady garden, evergreen azaleas are an ideal choice. And this year, despite the horrific winter, they have been garden superstars. It was difficult to choose among them — they were all clamoring to be included —  so I’ve tried to showcase a diverse, interesting selection of old and new introductions possessing good foliage as well as fabulous flowers:

 

Rhododendron ‘Benjamin Morrison’ (photos below of flowers and buds)

Named in honor of hybridizer Benjamin Yeo Morrison, this is one of the 454 azaleas he developed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Introduction Station in Glenn Dale, MD. He began his breeding program in the late 1920’s and succeeded in creating new hardy azaleas with large flowers, known as the Glenn Dale hybrids.  Morrison served as the first Director of the United States National Arboretum, and the Arboretum’s dazzling Spring display of his azaleas in bloom draws hundreds of admirers every year.

I have a special affinity for R. ‘Benjamin Morrison’ because it was recommended to me by my friend, the late Hank Schannen, an extraordinary plantsman. It was his favorite evergreen azalea.

copyright  2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright  2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Rhododendron ‘Martha Hitchcock’ ( photos below)

Martha is another bi-color Glenn Dale azalea. When Morrison was asked for a list of his “choice cultivars”, Martha Hitchcock was one of the nine he recommended.  “The flowers are so wonderful”, he said, “anyone would be a fool to pass them by”. But he also said that as a young plant Martha is “stringy-looking”. Don’t let that worry you. Have patience. I know from experience that given time to establish, Martha Hitchcock will not disappoint.  ( B/T/W, in case you are wondering, Martha Hitchcock was not married to Wild Bill; she was the wife of A.S. Hitchcock, a botanist and author of the classic treatise, Manual of Grasses of the United States.)

Copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

Copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Rhododendron ‘Marshy Point’s Lavender Miss’ (photo below)

Would you believe, a Martha Hitchcock look-alike on hormones?  Semi-double flowering R. ‘Marshy Point’s Lavender Miss’ is an exciting new introduction from an outstanding, albeit not well-known azalea breeder, Harry C. Weiskittel, founder of the wholesale family owned and operated Marshy Point Nursery in Maryland. (Weiskittel also introduced ‘R. Marshy Point’s Humdinger’, in my opinion one of the best multi-season blooming evergreen azaleas. See my Blog posts of March 1, 2013 and November 2011.)

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Rhododendron ‘Marshy Point’s Daisy’ (photos below)

My most recent Weiskittel azalea addition, Daisy, is a knockout. In May and June gorgeous, large, single, peachy-pink flowers cloak her pristine, shiny green foliage. And the foliage suffered no winter damage this year. Amazing! (Don’t tell the others, but I think she’s my new Marshy Point favorite).

copyright  2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Rhododendron ‘Amoena'(photo below)

Amoena is a very hardy, old-timey, Japanese Kurume hybrid, a group of azaleas with breeding and selection going back hundreds of years. With masses of tiny hose-in-hose vibrant magenta flowers in May, bronzy-green foliage in the fall, and at maturity a majestic presence, she would be an awesome addition to any garden. Yet for many years she has been out of fashion, out of favor, and impossible to find in the trade. That’s changing, slowly. Grab her if you can.

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Note: For evergreen azalea culture information see my Blog post: Azalea ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’ (March 1, 2013).

 

 

Update: The Encore evergreen azalea, R. ‘Autumn Embers,’ survived the winter looking more everbrown than evergreen. It did bloom in the Spring but it was a sparse display — nothing like its Fall flowering. I’ll give it one more year before making a final judgment. Update 2014: Plant removed.

And Clematis ‘Omoshiro’ from Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery did bloom for me in the Spring. (See Blog post, The Next Best Thing 2013: Part 2, Jan.26, 2013).  In fact, my Omoshiros are still in flower, both in the ground and in containers. Enchanting plant. (photo below)

copyright  2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

Beguiling Begonias

Every year I resolve to do less in the garden, particularly when it comes to filling scads of pots with annuals that require daily watering in the summer.  Dragging the hose about in hot, humid weather has lost its appeal. But like New Year resolutions honored more in the making than in the execution, as soon as I see the plants my resistance dissolves.

This year three enchanting annual begonias won me over — love at first sight sort of thing. They are worth the effort. As British author, Iris Murdoch, wisely noted,” One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats”.  These garden “treats” make me very happy.

Begonias do well in outdoor containers and will bloom from Spring to frost. They appreciate rich, evenly moist soil, in shade or part sun. And they attract bees and butterflies.

Begonia ‘Encanto Red’

For several years I have filled containers with the showy Begonia boliviensis ‘Bonfire’. This year Bonfire has been replaced with the showier, flamboyant and gorgeous, semi-upright, B. ‘Encanto Red’. (I do not exaggerate. See photo below).

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Dragon Wing hybrid Begonia

I saw this newly introduced beauty growing in a hanging basket but knew at once it would be the perfect plant for my favorite pot. (Photo below.)

copyright 2013 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

Begonia x benariensis ‘Whopper Red With Bronze Leaf’

A wonderful plant with its shiny bronze foliage and large flowers. Aptly named, Whopper Red can grow 2-3 feet tall and as much across. An added bonus is its excellent heat tolerance. (Photo below)

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I purchased the three begonias from Halsey Farm & Nursery on Deerfield Road in Watermill , N.Y., phone: 631 726-4843; halseyfarmstand@gmail.com. They have an outstanding selection of annuals, perennials and vegetable plants. ( No surprise. They have been at it for a long time. This family farm was started in 1747.)

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

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

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

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

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

 

Beauty and the Bees: Going, Going, Gone?

When I saw the first bees arrive and buzz about the garden it was cause for celebration.

While a quarter of the American diet depends on bee pollination, for almost a decade bees have been dying en masse. This time period coincides with the increased use in agriculture and in gardens of an extremely toxic group of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Last year, 40 to 50 % of the honeybee hives needed to pollinate fruit and vegetables in the U.S. were lost.

On April 29 the European Union’s health commissioner announced that the European Commission would enact a two-year ban on neonicotinoids. “I pledge to do my utmost,” he said, “to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22 billion euros annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

Yet despite numerous studies and scientific evidence linking these chemical pesticides and the loss of bees, our government has not taken remedial action . Well, strike that. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been motivated  to “assess” the situation.

Another USDA assessment casts some light on what that means. A Director at the USDA has recently recommended approval of a U.S. based slaughterhouse for horses intended for human consumption, the first since 2007.  Not only does the owner of the proposed slaughterhouse have a criminal record but in 2009 and 2010 his previous business, a cattle slaughterhouse, was effectively shut down by the USDA for serious violations of sanitation and food safety. These violations included “inadequate” testing for E. coli, and “irregularities” in the segregation and disposal of animal parts banned for human consumption because they have a high risk of transmitting mad cow disease.

If you fail with cows, you get to kill horses? Gee, it doesn’t bode well for the bees, does it.

Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “in discussion” about its earlier fast-track, inadequately reviewed, approval of the neonicotinoids, but it has put off making any decision until 2018. I guess they figure if they wait until all the bees are dead they won’t actually have to do anything at all. And that is what the bio-chemical giants that manufacture and profit in the billions from the poisons are probably counting on— indeed expecting; they have been playing footsie with these federal agencies for years.

It’s business as usual in Washington.

Fortunately, private individuals and groups have stepped up to the plate. Two months ago, beekeepers, environmental organizations, and consumer groups sued the EPA on behalf of the bees, asking, inter alia, that two of the most toxic and dangerous neonicotinoids be removed from commerce. (Ellis et al. v. Bradbury et al., United States District Court for the Northern District of California, March 21, 2013). The bees and I will closely follow developments.

I am reminded of another case, one before the Supreme Court of the United States, Baldwin et al v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana et al. (1978). When I was teaching I found it very useful in illustrating how parties to a lawsuit determine the issue before the Court. Here, hunters were suing the State of Montana because they, non-residents, were forced to pay more than Montana residents for a hunting license to kill elk in Montana. The Supreme Court decided the issue in favor of Montana: It was not a violation of law for Montana to charge non-residents more for the right to kill elk.

I asked, would the issue have been different if the elk were represented by counsel?

Unlike the hapless elk, the bees’ interests are represented.  Hopefully that will affect the outcome.

Moreover, be aware that these poisons also endanger birds. A recent comprehensive report by The American Bird Conservancy concludes that “neonicotinoids are lethal to birds as well as to the aquatic systems on which they depend. A single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid can kill a songbird.” (The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides On Birds (March 2013).)

The good news is that endearing, native bumble bees still abound in my organic garden. The early Spring arrivals are very fond of the masses of flowers produced by Rhododendron ‘Mary Fleming’, an outstanding shrub.

As you can see from the photos below, while her flowers change color somewhat in different light, they are always lovely. I am told, however, that there is an R.’ Mary Fleming’ in the trade with unattractive “muddy” colored bloom.  So, if possible, check out the flowers before you buy. ( For a discussion and photos of other wonderful, early Spring blooming, lepidote Rhododendrons, see my Post, Rhododendron Favorites: April 2012).

And treasure the bees and birds. As Rachel Carson, author of the seminal treatise on the dangers of pesticides, Silent Spring, said: “There is something healing in the repeated refrains of nature.” May the music continue.

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

DSCN2261

 

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

Early Spring: Snowy White Dazzle For Shade

PIERIS x ‘Spring Snow’ (z. 5-8)

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

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

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

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright  2013  –   Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  –  Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

 

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld
copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

 

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  –  Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013  –  Lois Sheinfeld

 

2013 Early Spring Surprise and Alert

One of my favorite garden writers, Alan Lacy, once said:  “Gardening is complicated, and prejudice simplifies it enormously.”

Very true — as a general rule. But when circumstances change, it may complicate things again. As for example, while I have recently spoken unkindly about hellebores (See Blog post of March 3, 2012, ‘Hellebores and Naming Names”), it hasn’t always been that way. Years ago, I was seduced by the beauty of the glorious doubles and planted a goodly selection.

Not one had the decency to show up for the second season. Maybe voles got them, maybe not. ( According to the garden literature, hellebores are toxic and anathema to rodents. But then again, voles don’t read — too busy eating.) No matter. I was disenchanted with double hellebores and never replaced the plants.

Well imagine my surprise a week ago — the first time the weather permitted an inspection of the garden — when I discovered an exquisite double hellebore in full bloom, in exactly the same area as the previous no-shows. While the ID tag is gone — along with my memory —  I think it’s one of the doubles I originally planted in 2009, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Elegance White’.

copyright 1013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

Moreover, after the horrific, ruinous winter, the hellebore was a joy to behold. See what I mean? Circumstances can change the way you feel about plants.

But there’s no ambivalence about a recent alert from Cornell University’s Department of Plant Pathology:  In the Fall of 2012, warm, wet, humid conditions led to the rapid spread of the destructive new boxwood blight, caused by the fungus Calonectria pseudonaviculata. Equally troubling is the discovery that Pachysandra is a host for the fungus. Ditto for Sarcococca, according to a report from the UK. Cornell suggests gardeners look for alternatives to boxwood.

And finally, I was baffled by a New York Times article about a brain wave pattern study from Scotland that found “going for a walk in a green space or just sitting, or even viewing green spaces….is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.” (April 2, 2013, p.D5). Did the Brits really need a new-age brain study to prove what we gardeners have always known?

In fact, decades ago, it was a British plantswoman, Gertrude Jekyll, who said it best:  “The first purpose of a garden is to be a place of quiet beauty such as will give delight to the eye and repose and refreshment to the mind.” Amen!

Winter Superstars: Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ & Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt. Aso’

I was longing for Spring but Mother Nature’s Evil Twin wasn’t finished with us. As soon as the snow melted enough to see bare ground, we were zapped with yet another storm on March 8th—my birthday, no less—causing more havoc and ruin. It’s enough to make your head spin.

Thank goodness for the intrepid and beautiful Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’. ( Zones 5-8 ). This award-winning, sweetly fragrant Witch Hazel bloomed on, despite the strong winds and heavy snow. Pallida has lovely yellow flowers with vibrant reddish-purple calyxes and foliage that turns a rich banana-yellow in the Fall. According to Witch Hazel guru, Chris Lane, “It sets the standard on which to judge all others.” ( See Lane’s authoritative reference, Witch Hazels, Timber press, 2005.)

Witch Hazels do best in compost enriched, well-drained, acid soil. It’s important to supply sufficient moisture, especially in times of summer drought. Mulching helps. My Pallida flourishes with filtered sun in winter and early spring before the oaks leaf out and in high shade thereafter. It’s sited in front of a white pine that serves as an ideal backdrop for the hazel’s flowers.

Hamamelis 'Pallida' (3/8/13):   copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

Hamamelis ‘Pallida’ on March 8:  copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

H. 'Pallida' post storm:  copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

H. ‘Pallida’ post storm:   copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

Another winter-wonder worth mentioning is the magical Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt Aso’ (Zones 6-8), a Pussy Willow adorned head-to-toe with fabulous pink catkins. Irresistible!

Like Witch Hazels, Willows appreciate moist, well-drained soil, but require more sun. Mt. Aso, relatively new to my garden, is faring well with filtered morning sun. As you can see from the before-and-after snow storm photos below, the pink “pussy willows” have been doing their star-turn for months, despite MN’s ET’s never-ending winter assaults. Amazing!

 

catkins emerging before storms: copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

catkins emerging before storms: copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

closeup of catkins emerging: copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

closeup of catkins emerging: copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

catkins between storms: copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

catkins between storms: copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

catkins post storms:  copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

catkins post storms: copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

It has now warmed up a bit. Dare we hope for an early Spring?

March 29 Post Update: Mt. Aso is a bottomless well of interesting. Check out the Springtime Fashionista in pale yellow, dove grey, and a sprinkle of pink.

copyright 2013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

Azalea ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’

Hurrah, it’s March! Spring is but a shiver away.

Since I first wrote about ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’ in November 2011, this can-do, glowing, double pink, evergreen azalea has flowered reliably and prodigiously every spring and fall. It’s a fabulous, hardy, blooming machine.  (Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Encore Series repeat-blooming azaleas I’ve tried.  Yet I’m hoping for better luck with my current Encore, ‘Autumn Embers’. I’ll let you know.)

Humdinger is not a fussy or demanding garden diva, but like other evergreen azaleas it does insist on a few culture essentials:

Plant in acid soil, in an area with high, open shade protected from exposure to strong winds. The soil should be well-drained and abundant in organic matter such as leaf mold, compost or shredded pine bark. Organic matter improves aeration, increases the soil’s water-holding capacity, reduces leaching of soil nutrients and promotes beneficial mycorrhizae. Moreover, in my garden, beneficial soil-enriching earthworms are especially abundant in areas with pine bark mulch.

Before planting, any tightly bound root mass must be loosened by cutting from top to bottom around the circumference of the root ball. Failure to do so often results in a dead plant. So don’t be timid, you won’t hurt the azalea. Humdinger will thank you.

Comprehensive information about azaleas can be found in the ne plus ultra reference, Fred C. Galle’s Azaleas (Timber Press, 1987). For a more recent reference, see Kenneth Cox’s Rhododendrons & Azaleas: A Colour Guide (The Crowood Press Ltd, 2005).

I bought my Azalea ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’ (Zones 6-9) from RareFind Nursery. To easily access their 2013 online catalog click onto my blog link. (For my previous post on Humdinger, see: Archives, November 2011, “The Real Dirt: Try It You’ll Like It”.)

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

Skimmia japonica: Shade Plant Sublime

When we left northern California and returned to the east coast in the early 1980’s we bought wooded acreage in Southampton N.Y., built a house and started a garden.  Actually, 14 lilac bushes went in before the house was finished.  I couldn’t wait.

Lilacs are my favorite flowers.  They need a cold spell in order to bloom, so for the twelve years we lived in La La Land, zone 9, I was lilac-deprived.  (We did have one small shrub in a pot that we fed ice cubes all winter while we sang, “New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town”.  It rewarded us with two or three flowers every year.)

California nurseries tried to sell us on “California lilacs,” a/k/a Ceanothus, which we scornfully rejected. They looked nothing like real lilacs. ( Of course I would now kill to have a glorious, sumptuous, blue flowering Ceanothus in the garden. Figures, doesn’t it? )  But I digress.

After the house was built we lined one side of a shady path with a group of the woody ornamental shrub Skimmia japonica.  A friend of a friend was experimenting with them and urged us to try some.  At the time I hadn’t heard of  Skimmia, no one I knew had them, and they weren’t available at local or mail-order nurseries.  Now, 25 years later, what a difference.  Skimmia is everyone’s darling, and rightfully so.

Through lectures and meetings I have certainly done my part in spreading the word about its many virtues and happily take the opportunity to do so here:

Skimmia is a reliable, prolific bloomer, even as a young plant, and even in shade, which is its preferred location.  Lovely creamy-white flowers open in April, releasing their delicious fragrance into the air.  Large reddish flower buds are produced in early autumn and carry over winter, so the shrubs appear to be flowering in the snow.  And in late summer, female plants produce clusters of fat, fire-engine-red berries — which the birds ignore until spring — so that highly decorative flowers and fruit adorn the shrubs at the same time.

Skimmia japonica is dioecious and requires both male and female plants for fruit.  I don’t grow the self-fertilizing variety, Skimmia reevesiana. The jury is out on its performance: reviews are mixed, some good, some not.

No doubt about Skimmia japonica’s garden worthiness.  In addition to fabulous flowers and fruit, the shrub’s magnolia-like, thick textured, dark green leaves are evergreen, and if rubbed or bruised emit a strong herbal scent that repels deer.  Fragrant flowers, evergreen foliage, decorative fruit — and deer resistant! To my mind, as close to perfect as a plant can get.

And yet, with all its superlative qualities, Skimmia isn’t a prima donna requiring constant pampering.  Far from it.  But there are a few essential culture requirements:  moist, acid, well-drained organic soil, and most important, SHADE.

Skimmia is winter hardy here on Long Island, zone 7, and despite periods of horrific and loony weather we have never lost a plant.  Zone 6 may be somewhat iffy but given a bit of protection surely worth a try. (Sort of the reverse of our lilac in a pot with ice cubes.)

One other thing. My shrubs are over 6 feet tall.  The plants I now see for sale and in gardens mature at 2 or 3 feet tops.  The current garden trend does seem to favor dwarf plants.

Large or small, Skimmia japonica is an outstanding plant of enduring merit.  One of the best.

 

Skimmia japonica copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

Skimmia japonica   —   copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Note: Setting The Record Straight.   Growing along the same path as Skimmia japonica, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’ has been in dazzling bloom since mid-January.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Orange Peel'   --  copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’ —
copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

Because of its sweet fragrance, I chose Orange Peel over the similar orange-flowered Witch Hazel, H. x intermedia ‘Jelena’.  While Jelena is a looker, her flowers have no scent. ( See the authoritative reference in the field, Chris Lane’s 2005 Royal Horticultural Society Plant Collector GuideWitch Hazels. )

I’m surprised that garden writers continue to wax eloquent about Jelena’s wonderful fragrance. In The King and I, the King of Siam said it best: “Is a puzzlement!”

The Next Best Thing 2013: Part 3

Fairweather Gardens

Many of my favorite plants have come from Fairweather Gardens (www.fairweathergardens.com), and I’m excited about its 2013 catalog offerings. Here are my choices:

True to its name, Hemerocallis ‘Milk Chocolate’ is a exquisite, brown daylily. I already grow a bunch — but more is better.  I’m not aware of another source for this wonderful, uniquely colored plant.  Z. 3-9.

copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rohdea japonica 'Galle'

Rohdea japonica ‘Galle’

Rohdea japonica ‘Galle’ is a 12-18 inch high, evergreen, shade perennial.  A handsome ground cover or edging plant, Galle has shiny, dark green leaves, short stalked pale-yellow spring flowers, and carmine-red berries in the fall. Z. 6-9.

 

 

 

My red-flowering Cytisus scoparius ‘Burkwoodii’ was so knock-your-socks-off gorgeous it took my breath away. (See photos below) That is, before the voles killed it.  Now that I’ve discovered VoleBloc ( See April  2012 Post, “Hot Tips: Vole Damage Protection” ), I can safely invite this ornamental woody beauty back into my life.  I’ve ordered three replacement plants. Happily, Fairweather assures me they will be blooming size. Cytisus is an easy-care plant: Provide sun and infertile, sandy soil; once established, there’s no need to feed or water. Z. 5-8.

 Baby 'Burkwoodi'copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

Baby ‘Burkwoodii’
copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 Mature 'Burkwoodi'copyright 2013  -  Lois Sheinfeld

Mature ‘Burkwoodii’
copyright 2013 – Lois Sheinfeld

Finally, I’ve chosen a new and distinctive tree to grace my garden:  Abies pinsapo ‘Aurea’ ( Golden Spanish Fir) is an eye-catching conifer with dense, sharp, prickly needles that emerge golden yellow before turning chartreuse green. This uncommon, slow-grower is suitable for a large or small garden and appreciates well drained soil with protection from intense afternoon sun. Z. 6-9.

 Abies pinsapo 'Aurea'

Abies pinsapo ‘Aurea’

 

 

Note: Fairweather Gardens is a small grower/nursery, so there are limited quantities of each plant. If you are interested, order now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Best Thing 2013: Part 2

Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery

A long time ago I visited the New York Flower Show in Manhattan and was seduced by a beautiful peony from Klehm Nursery.  The New York Flower Show may be defunct, but for twenty years and counting I’ve been a Klehm plant groupie.

The nursery specializes in and hybridizes peonies and daylilies but it has also been my go-to place for fabulous woody ornamentals and perennials.  Here are some of my 2013 picks:

Paeonia 'Guardian of the Monastery'

Paeonia ‘Guardian of the Monastery’

Tree Peony, Paeonia ‘Guardian of the Monastery’, is a vision with dazzling flowers  in shades of mauve and lavender with purple flares.  From spring to fall, Klehm ships these 3-to-4 year old woodies in pots.  (Note:  I’m delighted that apart from daylilies and herbaceous peonies all of Klehm’s plants are shipped in their containers.)  Zones 4-8.

 

 

 

 

Clematis 'Omoshiro'

Clematis ‘Omoshiro’

Clematis ‘Omoshiro’, has large, 5-7 inch, lightly fragrant, pale-pink flowers with a dark-pink edge and reverse.  I am surprised that the name Omoshiro means amusing, interesting.  In this case, don’t you think WOWIE! is more apt?  The plants are two-year-old trellised vines that will probably bloom the first season.  (That’s my experience with Klehm clematis, not a Klehm guarantee.)  Zones 4-9.

 

 

 

Pinus cembra 'Big Blue'

Pinus cembra ‘Big Blue’

Pinus cembra ‘Big Blue’, is a dense, slow growing, showy, evergreen conifer with long blue needles.  I am very fond of blue plants and the birds love conifers. A win, win.  Zones 2-8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

x Heucherella 'Gold Zebra'

x Heucherella ‘Gold Zebra’

x Heucherella ‘Gold Zebra’ is a ground-cover or edging plant sporting gold leaves splashed with dark red swirls.  There are white flowers in the spring, but this shade perennial is all about the foliage.  Zones 4-9.

 

 

 

Klehm’s 2013 catalog can be easily accessed by clicking on this blog’s LINKS.

 

2013: What’s New?

Happy New Year!

An early-bird 2013 catalog has arrived from one of my favorite mail-order nurseries and my order is in . Here are some of the plants that have caught my eye:

Camellia Forest Nursery:

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Champagne’ is a sport of C.j ‘Nana Albospica’, but is more vigorous and grows twice as fast.  It has white new growth which takes on a purple cast in winter.  Ten year size is 8 feet tall by 6 feet wide.  Zones 6-8.

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Knaptonensis’ is a slow growing dwarf with brilliant white new growth and very short needles that curve around the branches.  Zones 6-8.

Both C.j. ‘Champagne’ and C.j.’Knaptonensis’ like moist, acid, well-drained soil and some shade—especially shade from intense afternoon sun.

 

Symplocos paniculata (Sapphireberry)

Symplocos paniculata (Sapphireberry)

Symplocos paniculata (Sapphireberry) is not a new plant but almost impossible to find in the trade.  In the spring, small white fragrant flowers cover this large shrub (or small tree) and in the fall it produces masses of  sapphire-blue berries. Sapphireberry is a social animal and likes company: plant several to ensure cross pollination and abundant fruit. Zones 5-8. ( And do check out Camellia Forest’s exquisite and extensive camellia offerings. )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can easily access the nursery catalog by going to LINKS on this blog.

Next time: Part 2 ( more nurseries, more plants)

Fabulous Camellias for Northern Gardens: Autumn Flowering Sasanquas

Camellia lovers, no need to envy Scarlett O’Hara her camellia friendly, hot, sultry, climate.  Thanks to the breeding efforts of Clifford Parks, William L. Ackerman, and others, we now have an extraordinary selection of beautiful, winter-hardy, evergreen camellias available for northern gardens.  I am particularly fond of Fall blooming sasanquas that defy cold, frosty conditions and grace my garden with a profusion of flowers (often fragrant) when little else is in bloom.

Consider my three favorites:

C. x ‘Survivor’ lives up to its name and then some.  It has survived  -9 degrees F. without injury.   A sasanqua and oleifera hybrid, ‘Survivor’ blooms for months, displaying an abundance of small, single, white fragrant flowers from pink buds.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Another snowy-white flowering lovely, C. sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’, has large, fragrant, semi-double flowers, pink buds, a long bloom period, and particularly nice dark-green foliage.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Pretty in pale pink, C. sasanqua ‘Jean May’, flaunts her showy, fragrant, multi-petaled blossoms from September until winter’s hard frost.

copyright 2012  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

All three recently suffered thru a brutal October-November assault from Hurricane Sandy and a nor’easter, with no ill effect to bloom or to foliage.  (Would that my other plants had fared as well.)

Camellias prefer well-drained acid soil rich in organic matter; composted leaf mulch would be a welcome additive.  Apart from this basic rule, here are a few additional time-tested culture tips for Northern gardens:

First, the best time to plant is in the Spring, between mid April and late May, so the camellias have time to establish before their first winter.  Fall planting may be ideal for the South, but too risky for Yankee gardeners.

Second, the best location for camellias is a north or northwest exposure with protection from wind; exposure to early morning winter sun can cause leaf burn or even death.

These essential culture tips and much more practical information can be found in the book, Beyond the Camellia Belt, by the noted cold-hardy camellia breeder, William L. Ackerman.  A must-have reference.

I purchased my dazzling trio from Camellia Forest Nursery.  (See Links).

Autumn Color: Lindera angustifolia

I’m besotted.  Every day I stand in awe before Lindera angustifolia, the Asian Spicebush, utterly transfixed by its dazzling Fall foliage display of fiery orange and pink.  (Not to mention the elegant silvery-gray leaf reverse.)

The shrub is new to my garden and now I can’t imagine the garden without it.

British author, Dame Penelope Lively, got it right:  “For me”, she said, “gardening is a sequence of obsessions — the tingle of discovery, the love affair with the latest acquisition”.

My plant is about three feet tall but will reportedly grow from eight to ten feet.  What a spectacular autumn sight that will be!  I feel faint just thinking about it.

Clusters of small yellow flowers will appear on the stems in early Spring, but only female plants will produce berries; the shrub is dioecious and requires male fertilization.  Like its kissin’ cousin, Lindera benzoin (our native Spicebush), L. angustifolia’s leaves have a spicy fragrance, though opinion is split as to whether the flowers are also fragrant.  I’ll let you know when it blooms for me. (BTW, the same spicy, herbal foliage is enjoyed by Skimmia japonica and ensures it’s deer-resistance; deer don’t like the smell.)

In accordance with its culture preferences, I planted L. angustifolia in a shady area that gets a bit of filtered sun in the afternoon.  The soil is moist, acid and well-drained.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Autumn may well turn out to be my most favorite season.

Hot Tips: Osmanthus x fortunei ‘UNC’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll thank me for this one.

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

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Autumn Update: Iochroma & Clerodendrum

Iochroma ‘Royal Queen Purple’ has fully lived up to expectations — and then some.

She has been a spectacular non-stop blooming machine for over four months with no end in sight.  As soon as one flower cluster fades, another takes its place, to the delight of hummingbirds and bees.

Planted in a large container, the Queen achieved five feet by six feet and was fertilized only once, not monthly as was suggested.  And she receives filtered afternoon sun, not full sun all day.  She may be royal, but she doesn’t require pampering.

Downside?  Her stems were so heavily laden with royal-purple blossoms, they did need a bit of support. That’s about it.  And I suspect that if she were grown in the ground, even that would not be required.

For me, an unqualified success.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Clerodendrum trichotomum has just begun to reveal its Autumn splendor.  When the pink calyxes open, the pea-sized fruit inside has a greenish hue before turning a rich, metallic cerulean blue.  A sight to behold.

Here in zone 7, the promise of fragrant flowers and blue fruit at the same time was not to be.  ( See “August 2012: Clerodendrum,Hydrangea,Phygelius”).  No problem.  In fact I prefer it this way, appreciating each superb feature in its turn.  Too much of a good thing the other way, don’t you think?

Sited in shade with a bit of filtered sun, C. trichotomum flourishes in my organic garden in acid, well-drained soil.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Both plants add to the garden’s Autumn magic.

Addendum: Photo update of Clerodendrum a few weeks later:

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Autumn Magic: Lespedeza and Callicarpa

About twenty years ago, on a brisk Fall day, I visited a beautiful lower-Manhattan community garden. There I saw Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’ for the first time and was instantly smitten.  It has graced my garden, on and off, ever since.  I say on and off because the voles are equally smitten.  ( See Archives, April 2012, “Hot Tips: Vole Damage Prevention”).

While styled a woody shrub, in my zone 7 garden it behaves like a herbaceous perennial, dying back in Winter and returning in Spring.  Not a problem, since an established plant can grow a formidable six feet high and six feet wide in one growing season.

In Spring and Summer the shrub is clothed in lovely blue-green foliage.  Then in the early Fall, the long, slender stems are smothered in magenta pea-like flowers, creating an enchanting fountain of resplendent  blossoms. Breathtaking!  I’ve paired Gibraltar with a standard form of PeeGee Hydrangea (H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’) whose snowy white flowers turn pink about the same time.  As you can see from the photo it was love at first sight, with Lespedeza reaching up to embrace PeeGee before cascading down.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

I’m mad about magenta. But if it isn’t your thing, I also have and recommend an equally impressive white-flowering form of Lespedeza, L.t.’White Fountain’. As a bonus, this cultivar sports lovely golden foliage in late autumn. An ideal partner for Callicarpa dichotoma, which turns autumnal gold at the same time.

Splendid Fall foliage is but one virtue of Callicarpa dichotoma. Aptly named Purple Beautyberry, this ornamental shrub is acclaimed for it’s spectacular Autumn display of purple berries. Though again, if purple doesn’t move you or if it’s too much of a wow, try the more refined, yet elegant, white-berried form, C.d. var. albifructus.  I have and like both.

Copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

In my garden, Lespedeza and Callicarpa flourish in shade and well drained acid soil.  Apart from the aforementioned voles, which regard both as menu favorites, the plants have been trouble free.

More Autumn beauties next time.

August 2012: Clerodendrum,Hydrangea,Phygelius

If, like me, you are mad about fragrant plants, you will love Clerodendrum trichotomum, the Harlequin Glorybower.  The buds on my deciduous shrub have just started to open and the perfume is heavenly.  The flowers are also a welcome late summer gift for butterflies.  Cerulean blue, pea-sized fruit nestled in dark pink calyxes follow the bloom.  (Note the blue caps on the ends of the dancing flower stamens. Putting us on notice of the fruit to come?).  Flowers and fruit may even appear at the same time.  Very showy.

My shrub is about 7 feet tall but in warmer climes Glorybower can grow into a magnificent 15-20 ft. tree. Tree or shrub, it’s disease-and-pest-resistant. The only downside is its propensity for invasiveness. Not a problem for me — yet. (In fact, my plant started out as a volunteer in a friend’s garden).

I should mention that C. trichotomum’s other common name is Peanut Butter Tree; when the leaves are bruised they are supposed to smell like peanut butter. I put it to the test. Result? Stick with Glorybower.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

You can never have enough hydrangeas.  Mother Nature agrees.  She (in league with the birds?) has graced my garden with a bountiful selection of the most beautiful flowering volunteers.  Many of these, in glorious bloom now, are probably the offspring of Hydrangea paniculata.  At least I think so.  The foliage is the same and the bloom time corresponds; short of a DNA test, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc., etc., and so forth.  One of these plants is over 6 feet and flaunts gorgeous, brobdingnagian panicles of fertile and sterile flowers.  When the fertile buds open, intoxicating fragrance fills the garden.  I’m in awe. And so are the bees.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Please forgive me for saying this ad infinitum:  Be careful when you weed.  A volunteer may turn out to be one of the best plants in the garden.  Mine did.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

As I reported in May, Phygelius x rectus ‘Moonraker’, planted in the ground last summer, suffered very little winter dieback.  It’s now over two feet, multi-stemmed, with masses of elegant, long, pale yellow trumpets. A big success.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

This Spring I experimented by planting in a container the hummingbird magnets, pristine-white-flowered Phygelius aequalis ‘Snow Queen’ and the glowing-pink-flowered Phygelius aequalis ‘Sani Pass’.  They have been in continuous, harmonious bloom ever since.  (For best effect, I remove the spent flowers).  Check out the closeup photos below:  P.a. ‘Snow Queen’ weeps golden tears and P.a. ‘Sani Pass’ is a party-girl in red lipstick.  A fabulous duo.  Compact and ever-blooming, P. aequalis plants are perfect in pots.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Late summer in my garden.  Not bad at all.

Summer 2012: Heavenly Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are immensely popular and rightfully so; they are showy, easy-care flowering shrubs that work for you, not the other way around.  In the Hamptons, a garden favorite is the familiar mop-head hydrangea, H. macrophylla, a standout with its fabulous pink, blue and purple flowers.  But there are other less well known, equally worthy hydrangea beauties, and I’d like to celebrate a few of my favorites:

Hydrangea x ‘Sweet Chris’ (Big Smile Hydrangea), a cross between H. macrophylla and H. serrata, inherited the best attributes of both parents.  Many hydrangeas are chameleons and change flower color depending on the ph of the soil — pink in sweet, alkaline soil, and blue or purple in acid.  Sweet Chris takes it one exciting step further.  In my garden (acid soil) the gorgeous lace-cap flowers are bi-color with fertile centers of rich ocean blue, contrasted with lacy caps of pink sterile flowers with serrated edges and blue button noses.  A hydrangea designed by Dior.  Irresistible.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

New to my garden this year is Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Hanabi’ which means fireworks in Japanese.  (It is sometimes sold as ‘Fugi Waterfall’, or ‘Shooting Star’).  Hanabi’s exquisite, lacecap type flowers have huge pink fertile centers surrounded by long-stemmed, pink-blushed white, double sterile flowers, which parachute from the center like birds in flight.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

With my acid soil, I expected the flowers to be blue, not pink.  In fact, Hanabi shares a garden bed with the bluest of blue lacecap macrophyllas.  A mystery, to be sure.  Hydrangeas are surprising as well as heavenly.

 

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Update on H. angustipetala ‘ MonLongShou’ (Golden Crane Hydrangea):  Back in February I wrote about wanting (lusting after?) this treasure.  (For details and a photo see: “More 2011 Successes and 2012 Obsessions”).  But for months it was touch and go as to whether I could actually get it.  So my grateful thanks to Paige Patterson of Marders Nursery in Bridgehampton, N.Y.;  through her diligent efforts I now have two small plants in my garden.  One came with just a sliver of a flower — yet it was big enough to smell.  I’m happy to report that Golden Cranes’s flowers are indeed fragrant.  Hallelujah!

Finally, be aware that hydrangeas love to make whoopee.  As a result, my garden boasts some extraordinary volunteers.  Yours will too.  Makes life interesting.

June 2012: Rhododendron ‘Summer Summit’

According to nurserymen and growers in the U.S., the current trend in garden design seems to be two-fold:  a focus on easy-care shrubs along with a preference for small  —  even dwarf  — plants.

For more than thirty years I’ve always favored shrubs (and trees) over the very popular high-maintenance perennials.  But for me, bigger is better.  And no plant proves that point quite so well as the majestic Rhododendron ‘Summer Summit’.  Just give it a bit of room, and stand back.

In my shady organic garden, the Summit is healthy, vigorous, and wonderfully over-sized in every way.  For starters, the shrub dominates the landscape and is a sight to behold with its towering 16 foot tall and 10 foot wide tree-like stems.  And when it blooms in June, it’s nothing short of glorious:  a shower of beautiful, huge, snowy white blossoms set off by expansive rings of long, elegant, dark green leaves.  (Indoors, one truss will amply fill a large container, and the flowers last a long time).

While tropical in look and habit, this late-blooming David Leach hybrid is hardy to -20 degrees F., and to my mind it’s one of Leach’s finest introductions.

Doesn’t every garden need at least one fabulous, flowering, trouble-free giant?

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

“The Darling Buds of May”: Rhododendrons: ‘Ben Morrison’ & ‘Calsap’

There are two May flowering plants that demand a mention.

Rhododendron ‘Ben Morrison’ always reminds me of the late Hank Schannen, plantsman-hybridizer extraordinaire, because it was his favorite evergreen azalea. Not surprising. Ben Morrison, beautiful in bud and flower, is a boldly handsome bi-color standout in orange-pink and white with a vibrant reddish-orange flare. In addition to these  attributes, Ben is a reliable, hardy bloomer and immensely popular with one and all. Sort of like having your very own May fireworks display.

copyright 2012 Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2012 Lois Sheinfeld

My second “mentionable”, Rhododendron ‘Calsap’, is a dazzling elepidote whose only real drawback is its silly name. With lovely lavender buds which open to luminous, snowy white flowers, graced with knock-your-socks-off purple-red flares, this beauty lives to be admired. And Calsap possesses both the good health and hardiness lacking in one of its similarly flowered parents, R. ‘Sappho’.

copyright 2012 Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 Lois Sheinfeld

 

Take a tip from the bees and try one or both for May magic and year-round enjoyment.

Copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Rhododendron Favorites: April 2012

I always look forward to April when some of my favorite rhododendrons burst into glorious bloom.This year, though the dazzling display began in March, I was rewarded with the best show ever.

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld 2012

Many of my early blooming, small-leafed lepidote rhododendrons come from the extraordinary breeding program of the Mezitt family of Weston Nurseries in Massachusetts.The program was royally launched with the introduction of  Rhododendron ‘PJM’, named for the founder of Weston, Peter J. Mezitt (ergo,PJM ) and hybridized by his son, Edmund Mezitt. (Believe it or not, this celebrated rhododendron was the result of Edmund’s very first attempt at hybridization).

 

“Spectacular,” Peter Mezitt said on seeing PJM in bloom for the first time in 1945. He was right on the money, then and now.

 

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld 2012

Glowing lavender-pink blossoms blanket the plant in Spring, and in the Fall its lustrous evergreen foliage turns mahogany-black. PJM is very cold-hardy, thrives in both sun and shade, is pest-and-disease-resistant, and the bees love it as much as I do. (If you want all of PJM’s attributes but in a compact size, R. ‘Princess Susan’ would be a perfect choice).

 

 

 

Plant in well draining, humus-rich, acid soil, then stand back and enjoy. (For an Ultra Wow effect, companion plant with forsythia. Trust me. It works).

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld 2012

 

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld 2012

R.’Weston’s Pink Diamond’ is another favorite with luxuriant, ruffled, double silvery-pink flowers and resplendent autumn foliage colored in shades of gold, orange, and red.

 

 

 

 

 

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld 2012

Flowering a bit later, Diamond’s garden sidekick R. ‘Weston’s Aglo’ is elegantly dressed from head to toe in exquisite clusters of small  single pink flowers with red flares, and in the Fall, the evergreen foliage turns a beautiful bronze-green.

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to be outdone, R. ‘Mrs J. A. Withington 111’ sashays in, fashionably late, flaunting charming powder-puff double lavender flowers. Her evergreen foliage also turns bronzy-green in the Fall.

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld 2012

These Weston rhododendrons  share the same culture requirements as PJM and possess similar cold hardiness and disease and pest resistance.

I treasure them all.

 

 

 

March Bloom 2012

Rhododendron  mucronulatum ‘Mahogany Red’ usually blooms in April, but this year it jumped the gun and was in full dazzling flower in March. The bees were delighted. Not wanting to be left behind, Mahogany’s longtime garden companion, the fragrant Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’, also made an early appearance with its lovely rosy-pink buds that open white. These two loving intertwiners have shared star billing in my garden for over fifteen years and have bloomed reliably and heavily every year. Both flourish in compost-rich, well-drained acid soil.

Rhododendron mucronulatum 'Mahogany Red' copyright 2012

R. mucronulatum with bee copyright 2012

R. mucronulatum intertwined with Magnolia stellata copyright 2012

Camellia ‘Governor Mouton’, a hardy April bloomer, also flowered in March because of the unseasonably warm weather. A old favorite introduced in the eighteenth century, the Governor is quite the showstopper with vibrant red flowers splashed with white. (For hardy camellia culture information, see William Ackerman’s book, “Beyond the Camellia Belt”,  and click on my post, “Exciting Plants for Shade”).

-- Camellia 'Governor Mouton' -- copyright 2012

copyright 2012

Edgeworthia chrysantha always blooms in March and this year is no exception. Despite the unexpected competition from the fabulous plants described above, Edgeworthia had no problem attracting attention with its showy yellow and white flowers that perfume the air with intoxicating fragrance; and when the flowers fade, the shrub sports beautiful, tropical like foliage for the rest of the growing season. All this on a woodland plant that appreciates shade.

 

               Edgeworthia chrysantha    copyright 2012

 

March 2012 has been both a surprise and a joy.

 

Hellebores 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.

More 2011 Successes and 2012 Obsessions

2011 Successes
 

copyright 2012

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

 

 

copyright 2012

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

 
 
 
 
 

copyright 2012

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

 

 

2012  Obsessions

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

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

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

credit: The Primrose Path

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

credit: Dan Hinkley

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

credit: Rare Find Nursery