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2024: Time-Tested Beauties 2

“Gardening is eleven months of hard work and one month of disappointment.”  Elizabeth Lawrence.

While Lawrence spoke in jest, many of us have experienced real moments of despair when our dreams of garden magic turn into disappointing nightmares. All the more reason to fill our gardens with successful, time-tested, timeless plants, like the non-stop performer below:

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ (Z 4-7) has graced my garden for more than thirty years and never disappoints: The tall, handsome, evergreen shrub bedazzles in Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. In late Summer, the Pieris produces an abundance of flower buds that turn a show-stopping pink in Winter; in early Spring they open to pendulous clusters of fragrant white flowers, providing nectar for the early Spring pollinator, the Mourning Cloak Butterfly. Photos below.

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld –2024

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld –2024

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld –2024

(Note: The Mourning Cloak is one of North America’s longest lived butterflies. Unlike others, it hibernates over Winter — hopefully in our gardens — and emerges in Spring to mate and deposit eggs, ensuring a new generation before it dies. Not surprising that in the Spring photo above, the butterfly looks a bit ragged. The beautiful lively youngsters are unwilling to stop and pose for me.)

But I digress. Back to P.j. ‘Mountain Fire’:

When the Pieris flowers fade in May, the shrub’s vibrant fire-engine-red new growth emerges and rightfully demands star-billing and attention. Photo below. The new red leaves will turn a deep bronze before they finally turn green.

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld –2024

P.j. ‘Mountain Fire’ is deer-resistant and disease-resistant. In my organic garden, for more than three decades it has been deer-proof and disease/pest-free. (My Pieris thrives in shade. Be aware, if grown in sun it may have a serious problem with lace bug.) Provide well-drained, organically rich, acid soil.

2023: Successes and Failures

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past” Thomas Jefferson.

For gardeners, the history of the past informs the dreams of the future. While we tend to throw caution to the wind when we fall in love with plants, we benefit greatly by reviewing what worked and what didn’t before investing in additions to the garden.

2023 GARDEN FAILURES

With effective deer and vole protection finally in place, I thought it safe to plant Hostas in my shady landscape. They flourished for months. Then, in the Fall, the plants met up with marauding rabbits.

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

Sadly, Hostas are once again flora non grata. Ditto for Heucheras. (Shameless bunnies also gobbled up the Heuchara ‘Fire Alarm’ featured in the blog post “Summer 2023: Resplendent Plants.”)

As a keen gardening friend observed: “There is always something.”

 

2023 GARDEN SUCCESSES

“One can never be too thin, too rich or have too many Erythroniums” said Daniel Hinkley, founder of the legendary Heronswood Nursery. In my garden, Erythromium was verboten because of voles. Until now.

In the Fall of 2022 I planted rodent-resistant Erythronium californicum ‘Pagoda’ (Trout Lily) Z 4-8 and this Spring was rewarded with luminous, buttery-yellow flowers. A Festival of Erythronium!

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

Provide rich, moist, well- drained, acidic soil in shade.

Another success was the rabbit-deer-rodent-resistant bulbs of Allium sphaerocephalon (The Drumstick Allium) Z 4-9. The delightful long-stemmed, summer-blooming, purple dancing flowers were pollinator magnets.

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

Provide organically rich, well-drained soil.

Crucial to my garden’s success are plants with attractive, interesting foliage. I’m especially fond of variegated plants and I was captivated by a photo of a tropical variegated plant, Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’ (Shell Ginger) Z 8-11, that appeared on the cover of Richters 2023 Herb & Vegetable catalogue.

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

The plant’s ornamental, aromatic foliage is even more dazzling in person.

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

In addition to its show-stopping beauty, Shell Ginger has been widely used for medicinal and culinary purposes. It will not survive the frost in my Zone 7a garden but it can be overwintered as a houseplant. A. z. ‘Variegata’ is called Shell Ginger because in its second year it produces flowers that resemble sea shells.

On our upper deck, the disease-free, pest-free, plant thrives in a container of moist, organic potting soil, without added amendments or fertilizer.

Richters has an impressive inventory of plants and seeds, including an outstanding selection of tea plants. My tea junkie husband’s favorite this year was the pineapple-scented sage, Salvia elegans Z 9-10. The striking red flowers are a bonus.

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

Richters online: www.richters.com; phone: 1-800-668-4372.

Finally, a nostalgic look back to the first year of my blog: In a post on November 2011 I extolled the merits of the extraordinary Autumn and Spring flowering Azalea ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger.’ The photo of Humdinger below was taken on November 2023. Twelve years of beautiful, twice-yearly, reliable bloom, from a hardy, disease-free shrub. A success worth celebrating!

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

2023: BARBIE Pink

The recently released film Barbie has grossed over a billion dollars and counting at the global box office. No surprise that Barbie pink is now the new black. The film has created a cultural pink tsunami!

Scene from the Barbie Film

Consider adopting an enchanting pink-flowering trio for your garden:

Camellia japonica ‘Maidens of Great Promise’ (Z 6-9)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

C. j. ‘Maidens of Great Promise’ is a very cold-hardy, healthy, glossy-leafed, evergreen shrub that blooms in the Spring. In my organic zone 7a garden, the Camellia has flourished for decades north of the house, in well-drained, moist, organically rich acid soil, in shade. It attracts pollinators and has been disease-free and insect-pest-free. Avoid direct sun. Protect from voles. (See November 3, 2022 post: “2022: Natural, Non-Toxic Vole Repellent”)

 

Cornus Kousa ‘Scarlet Fire’ (Z 5-8)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

Award winning Kousa Dogwood Scarlet Fire was introduced by Rutgers University, a leading Dogwood breeder. The tree blooms heavily at a young age — the second year in my garden — and its rich pink bloom is an improvement over the disappointing color of the other pink-flowering Kousas I have tried. When the May/June flowers fade, the tree produces showy red fruit. It is disease-resistant, pest-resistant and heat-tolerant. Provide well-drained, moist, acid soil.

 

Rosa ‘Earth Angel’ ( Z 5-10)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

I love this floribunda rose! Earth Angel has won many awards — including the coveted ADR. (ADR roses are trialed for three years without pesticides and graded for, inter alia, disease resistance, habit, hardiness and beauty.) Moreover, the rose is part of the Kordes Parfuma collection of healthy, extremely fragrant roses. In addition to delicious fragrance, robust good health, and excellent disease resistance, the rose’s gorgeous petal-packed flowers repeat throughout the growing season.

Summer 2023: Resplendent Plants

After finding a new home for a Viburnum that was annoying a Japanese Maple (See post, “Assess, Adjust, Savor: Part 1”) I gifted the Maple with a showy red skirt of perennial Heuchara ‘Fire Alarm’ (Z 5-9). Photo below. (NOTE: The happily resettled Viburnum flowered and produced berries for the birds. A garden win win.)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

Multi-award-winning H. ‘Fire Alarm’ retains its striking reddish color for the entire growing season. In the summer, tiny pink bell-shaped flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant is pest and disease resistant. Provide well-drained, organically rich soil in shade.

Pollinators took center stage at the Mt. Cuba five year plant trials of native Hydrangeas: Pollinator attraction was an essential element of performance. Plants were also evaluated on habit, vigor, and floral display. The only hydrangea awarded the top score of 5.0, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas Halo'( Z 3-8) was the hands-down winner, the “perfect combination of horticultural excellence and pollinator value.”

I purchased several plants. They didn’t do much their first season in my garden but this summer the shrubs took my breath away: Tall stout stems were topped with awesome brobdingnagian-sized, snow-white lacecap flowers, adorned with bees.  Photos below.

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

My Halos are tolerant of oppressive heat and humidity and flourish in well-drained, moist, acidic soil in shade. They are healthy with no pest or disease problems. Prune in the early Spring — the plants flower on new growth.

I purchased Heuchera ‘Fire Alarm’ and Hydrangea ‘Haas Halo’ mail order from Rarefind Nursery. www.rarefindnursery.com; Phone: 732-833-0613

Garden inspiration can come in many ways — even from the cover of a 2023 Summer Newsletter. Photo below.

printed with permission JC Raulston Arboretum, NCSU

As soon as I saw this cover-girl dazzler I had to have it. When the JC Raulston Arboretum staff identified the beauty as Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Excelsior’, I fast added 50 bulbs to my Fall 2023 bulb order. H. hispanica ‘Excelsior’ (Z 3-8) is a 1906 heirloom Spanish Bluebell bulb that flowers in the Spring and prefers sandy, moist, well-drained soil in sun or part shade. It naturalizes well and is often planted in woodland areas, under deciduous trees.  The bulb is said to be deer and rodent resistant. Can’t wait to have it grace my garden.

I purchased H. hispanica ‘Excelsior’  from my mail order bulb source John Scheepers. www.johnscheepers.com; phone: 860-567-0838.

Note: This year is the worst ever for ticks. They are everywhere. Even garden gravel paths and wooden decks are no longer safe. Many of us have suffered from serious tick bite infections. Thankfully, I can now report that help is on its way: Moderna and Pfizer are just two of the companies with Lyme vaccines in trials. Finally!!!!!!

Spring 2023: Highest Garden Merit Plants

In May, Rhododendrons rule! My shrubs performed this year with awe-inspiring, massive colorful displays of exquisite bloom. They surely are A-List garden-worthy. Photos below.

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Years ago, J.C. Raulston, revered horticulturist/educator, suggested a way to choose plants with the “highest garden merit”:

“I’ve decided,” he said, “they need to be basically tough and not need pampering with relatively low maintenance (little or no special environments, modified soils, watering, pruning, spraying, etc.), have interest or appeal over a fair length of time, [and] that they have high ornamental value at least at some point (showy or interesting flowers, fruit, foliage, texture, etc.)”

Please consider the following easy-care deciduous shrub — time-tested in my organic garden — which clearly passes the Raulston test:

Abelia mosanensis Z 5-9 (Hardy Abelia, Fragrant Abelia)

As they say in the movie business, this shrub has “legs.” First, in early Spring, it is blanketed by clusters of pink buds emerging from green calyxes. Then, in mid-May, the buds open to deliciously fragrant white flowers. Finally, when the flowers fade, the calyxes take center stage and this non-stop performer appears to be covered in lovely green flowers until frost. My plant has been disease-free and pest-free and flourishes in moist, acid, well-drained, organically rich soil. Photos below.

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I recently purchased three amazing pollinator-favorites that are also, in my opinion, “highest garden merit” plants :

Buddleia x ‘Miss Ruby’ Z 5-9 (Butterfly Bush)

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

The English Royal Horticultural Society’s Popularity Poll ranked Miss Ruby number 1 out of 97 other Buddleia cultivars. No surprise. Its fragrant, vibrant red flowers bloom continuously from summer to frost and the plant is deer-resistant and rabbit-resistant. Moreover, Miss Ruby is beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds.

This beauty is not particular about soil pH but prefers well-drained soil in sun. (Note: Gardeners have reported that it flowers well in high shade and part shade.) Miss Ruby can be hard pruned in Spring because it flowers on new growth — even if it dies to the ground in winter.

 

Salvia nemorosa’ Pink Profusion’ Z 3-8

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

This re-blooming easy-care charmer has been chosen 2024 Proven Winners National Perennial of the Year. The plant is resistant to deer and rabbits and its fragrant, showy pink flowers attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. For re-bloom, prune after flowering. It is not particular about pH but requires well-drained soil.

 

Torenia ‘Purple Moon’ (Wishbone Flower)

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

It was love at first sight—I grabbed three Purple Moons as soon as we were introduced.  But this annual is more than just a pretty face. The gorgeous, velvety flowers are produced in abundance from Spring to frost and attract bees and hummingbirds. Purple Moon is an ideal container spiller in shade or part shade.

I purchased the pollinator plants from Eastland Farms. Eastland has an extraordinary selection of plants and outstanding customer service. (Thank you, Courtney!)

Eastland Farms, 1260 Montauk Highway, Watermill, NY; P. 631-726-1961; eastlandfarms@aol.com.

Spring 2023 Act 1: Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

You know how it is with an April day

When the sun is out and the wind is still,

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

But if you so much as dare to speak,

A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,

A wind comes off a frozen peak,

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

Robert Frost

 

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2023: Honeysuckle & Roses

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

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

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

 

Rosa ‘Lyda Rose’ Z 5-9

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

2023: Irresistible Illicium

Dark chocolate is good for your health said the scientists. It was music to my chocoholic ears, though I feared it was too good to be true. And, sadly, dark chocolate has been found to contain the toxic heavy metals lead and cadmium, which can damage — inter alia — the kidneys, lungs, and nervous system. Not so good for your health.

Solution? Dump the chocolate and continue to reap the indisputable, positive health benefits of gardening and communing with nature. In furtherance of that goal, consider enriching your gardens with these  wonderful plants:

Illicium floridanum x ‘Scorpio’ and Illicium floridanum x ‘Orion’ Z 6-9

printed with permission from JC Raulston Arboretum, North Carolina State University

 

Scorpio and Orion are Illicium hybrids (I. floridanum x I. mexicanum) introduced by Dr. Thomas Ranney. Dr. Ranney is the JC Raulston Distinguished Professor of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University and is known affectionately as “the mad scientist of plant breeding at NCSU.” We all benefit from his madness: For the home gardener, the two hybrids are far superior — in both form and flower — to our native Illicium floridanum, one of their parents.

Both shrubs are compact — approximately 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide — with dense, glossy, evergreen foliage scented like licorice candy. They are deer-resistant. (The plants are so poisonous they are probably deer-proof: we avoid dark chocolate, the deer avoid Illicium.) In Spring, Scorpio and Orion produce abundant, beautiful spidery flowers — red (Scorpio) and white (Orion). Sporadic re-bloom has been reported. Provide moist, well-drained, organically-rich soil in shade.

RareFind Nursery has 3 gallon Scorpio and Orion plants available by mail order and nursery pickup: www.rarefindnursery.com.  Camellia Forest Nursery has 3 quart Scorpio and Orion plants available by mail order and 5 gallon Orion plants available for nursery pickup: www.camforest.com.

Spring is just a shiver away!

2022 Assess, Adjust, Savor: Part 2.

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

Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood Tree) Z 5-9

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

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

2022: Assess, Adjust, Savor: Part 1

“A garden, no matter how good it is, must never completely satisfy. The world as we know it began in a very good garden, a completely satisfying garden — Paradise — but after a while the owner and the occupants wanted more.” Jamaica Kincaid

For years my garden was an overgrown mess. Masses of volunteer Hydrangea, Viburnum, and Weigela invaded and occupied the landscape. Out of respect for Mother Nature’s gifts, I did nothing to stem the intrusive onslaught. Until now. This was a year of upheaval and positive change: Many of the large, established volunteer shrubs were dug up and were successfully transplanted or were given away. The garden breathed a sigh of relief. See photo below of a transplanted Viburnum that can now freely express itself without encroaching on a Japanese Maple and a photo of the Maple that was happy to see the Viburnum go.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Moreover, there is now space to add new interesting plants. If you plan to make additions to your garden, please consider:

Osmanthus x fortunei ‘UNC’ Z 7-10

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

This large, handsome, evergreen, flowering shrub is the progeny of a perfect marriage between O. heterophyllus and O. fragrans, inheriting winter hardiness from one and fragrance that carries on the air from the other. O. fortunei UNC is a longtime valued resident of my shady, organic garden and I look forward every autumn to the abundant, small white flowers that fill the garden with their intoxicating perfume. In addition, the shrub’s showy, dark-green foliage is deer and rabbit resistant. Provide moist, well-drained, acidic soil.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ Z 7-10

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

Another floriferous Autumn treasure is this exquisite Camellia that produces sumptuous double, ruffled, snowy-white flowers and healthy, semi-weeping, evergreen, holly-like foliage. I love this plant. I bought three more this Spring. Provide organically rich, well-drained acidic soil; protect from voles; avoid a windy site and morning sun.

Calycanthus x ‘Aphrodite’ Z 5-9

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

This deciduous shrub, aptly named Goddess of Love, produces beautiful, red, magnolia-like blossoms in summer, on old and new wood. The flowers are said to be fragrant. My plant’s flowers are not fragrant but ‘Aphrodite’ has graced my garden for two years and it took three years before her kissin’ cousin, yellow-flowered Calycanthus ‘Athens,’ released its fruity fragrance. I remain hopeful. Aphrodite’s big, glossy, green, herbal-scented leaves are deer-resistant. Provide well-drained, organically-rich soil in sun or in shade. The plant is pH adaptable.

I purchased all of the above shrubs mail-order from Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill, NC; www.camforest.com; (919) 968-0504.

 

NOTE: Years ago, Judge Learned Hand cautioned: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.” Thankfully, in November, Americans voted their hearts and democracy won.

WISHING YOU ALL A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY!

Summer 2022: A Rose & A Hydrangea

Rosa ‘Jasmina’ Z 5-9

My weather-worn, broken, metal rose arch finally gave up the ghost. In early April I detached its occupant Rosa ‘Jasmina’ and mail-ordered a new, weather-proof, vinyl replacement. By the time the arch arrived and was assembled, I was so overwhelmed with Spring cleanup I simply threw Jasmina over the new support — without proper attachment, pruning and feeding. Moreover, because the new arch was smaller than the old, which necessitated a change in garden placement, the rose stems had to change direction — north to south instead of south to north. I wasn’t sure Jasmina would survive this unfortunate treatment.

But survive it did and then some, filling the summer air with delicious perfume. I am delighted with the rose’s fortitude and untamed exuberance. Photos below.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

Jasmina is an award-winning Kordes bred climbing rose. The Kordes Nursery was founded in Germany in 1887 and since 1990 grows its roses without fungicides. All Kordes roses undergo years of trial evaluation for disease resistance, color, form and fragrance before they are introduced into commerce. Jasmina is beautiful, very healthy, fragrant, vigorous — and forgiving. It thrives in well-draining, moist, organic-rich soil.

 

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Sumida no Hanabi’ aka H.m. ‘Fugi Waterfall’ Z 6-9

In recent years, there has been a staggering number of sensational new Hydrangea introductions. But like the nursery rhyme “make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold,” I want to celebrate a golden oldie — a Japanese native Hydrangea I’ve grown and treasured for over a decade.

H.m. ‘Sumida no Hanabi’ is a captivating, award-winning gem of a plant. It possesses attractive, healthy, dark green foliage, but it’s the charming waterfall of double lace-cap florets, dancing from long pedicels, that make this hydrangea special. In acid soil the white florets sport blue centers and the small clusters of fertile flowers — surrounded by the elegant, dancing lace-caps — are also blue. The florets will eventually age to creamy mint green. Photos below.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

Hanabi flourishes in my acidic, well-draining, moist, organically rich soil, in shade. As with other macrophylla, the shrub blooms on old growth, so prune after flowering.

 

News Alert: Naming Names

The Governing Board of the Entomological Society of America has changed the common name of the Lymantria dispar moth from Gypsy moth to Spongy moth. They concluded that the word gypsy was an offensive slur of the Romani people.

I think anyone would resent being closely tied by name to these vile, foliage-chomping moths. They have laid waste to — and continue to kill — millions of hardwood trees, especially our beloved native Oaks.

The moths are not native to the United States but were brought here in 1869 by a Frenchman, Etienne Leopold Trouvelot. He was hoping to make a fortune in the U.S. with a misguided plan to breed silkworms. When the moths escaped captivity and set about the rapid destruction of countless acres of our hardwood forests and home garden landscapes, Trouvelot hightailed it back to France.

Surely, wouldn’t Justice be better served if the moth’s common name were Trouvelot? Just sayin’.

Justice was served in California: A court recently ruled that four species of bumblebees could be protected under the umbrella of the California Endangered Species Act because the bees fell within the statute’s legal definition of “Fish”.  A surprising decision, yes. An important win for our pollinators, absolutely. (And I’m sure that for two of the species, Crotch bumblebee and Suckley’s Cuckoo bumblebee, a name change was welcome.)

2022: Small Treats & Joyful Moments

”One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.”

Loyal readers know that I have often embraced this keen observation from the late British author Iris Murdoch. The New York Times now reports that the Murdoch “secret” has become a “popular trend” on social media called “Romanticizing Your Life.” Commentators on You Tube, Tik Tok, Reddit and Instagram are urging thousands of followers to find and appreciate moments of joy and beauty in their everyday lives and to “celebrate living for the smaller reasons.”

Here are some of my 2022 “moments of joy”:

First, after a long absence, native Lady Slipper Orchids have returned to the garden. Giddy with joy to have them back.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Second, two of the three ‘Liberty’ Hostas I planted last Spring have returned. Underground terrorist voles only got one!

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Third, my husband gave me the best birthday present ever: The Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon. We have a locked gate at the foot of the driveway to keep out the deer. Unfortunately, it also prevents package delivery to the house. I can barely lift heavy cartons of mail order plants, much less carry them 700 feet. With the small but mighty red wagon, I can effortlessly roll piles of boxes to the house. Don’t know how I lived without it.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Fourth, I love the pop of the color red in the garden and I delight in the Spring arrival of the tiny, unique red cones of the award-winning dwarf Norway Spruce, Picea abies ‘Pusch’.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Fifth, one of my favorite evergreen azaleas, Rhododendron ‘Marshy Point’s Daisy’, thankfully escaped a major garden breakout of azalea leaf gall, which affected both evergreen and deciduous azaleas.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Sixth, how can you not smile when enchanting gifts from Mother Nature suddenly appear? These mushrooms (Parasola plicatilis) are aptly named Pleated Parasols. (Lovely to see, not to eat.)

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And, finally, the roses never looked better, filling the air with their intoxicating perfume. They are represented here by my favorite climber,  the gorgeous, healthy, very fragrant Rosa ‘Compassion’.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Life is good.

May 2022: A Magnolia & A Camellia

I love Bumblebees.

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

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

Magnolia denudata ‘Yellow River’ Z 4-9

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

Camellia japonica ‘Korean Fire’ Z 6-9

                                                                                                                                                                      copyright 2022  Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

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

Oct./Nov. 2021: Autumn Review

The magical days of Fall are here.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Trees and shrubs fill the garden with enchanting shades of autumnal color: Photos below of Kousa Dogwood, Stewartia, Oxydendrum, Ginkgo, Japanese Maple, and Oakleaf Hydrangea.

 

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

To my surprise, a snowy-white, Fall-blooming Camellia joined the show. (Hadn’t bloomed in years.) Photo below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And two May-blooming woody evergreens are also flowering. This Rhododendron and Azalea couldn’t wait for Spring. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Some shrubs are not photoperiodic, i.e., influenced by shortened daylight. Rather, they are temperature-dependent and can be fooled into bloom by our warm October/November weather. Sadly, those flowers may be zapped by the cold; but the shrubs will bloom again in Spring. (Note: there are Azaleas bred to bloom in Spring and Fall and I’ve written about them in previous posts.)

It’s mid-November and I’m still picking beautiful roses for the house. Photo below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, birds and this gardener delight in the abundance of Autumn fruit produced in the garden. Photos below of two favorites: the jewel-like purple Callicarpa Beautyberry and the showy, fire-engine-red Ilex Winterberry.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Bric-a-Brac:

My native Oaks and other trees are being attacked by Beauty and the Beast a/k/a Wisteria. Let me explain:

For many years I’ve treasured two Asian woody Wisteria vines that are growing on sturdy Oak trees. In May/June the vines produce gorgeous, fragrant blossoms, and, thereafter, attractive, large, velvet-coated seedheads. That’s the Beauty part. Photos below of the flowers and seedheads.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

When the vines created their own bridges to adjoining trees, I thought, how very clever. More flowers and seedheads for me. My bad. With Taliban speed and murderous intent, the vines covered the ground with rooted runners that advanced in all directions, wrapping in deadly embrace every tree in their path. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Wisteria has even invaded the uncultivated woodland acreage—affectionately referred to as Tick Land—endangering the natural habitat.

Adding insult to injury, flowering was diminished because the vines devoted most of their energy to unbridled invasive growth. I guess the Wisteria can’t help it.  It’s in the nature of the Beast.

So I called in the troops. Crews from the Tree/Landscape Company, Jackson Dodds and Co., hacked away the Wisteria on the ground and in the trees and hauled off enormous piles of debris. The trees and Tick Land are safe for now.

I did not cut down the largely denuded original vines. They have a hold on my heart so they are on probation. Even if I cut them down, at this point I don’t think the Wisteria problem can ever be fully resolved. But it can be managed: I have Jackson Dodds and Co. on speed dial.

Be assured that if I could turn back time and start afresh I would not welcome Wisteria into my organic garden.

Summer 2021: Social Climbers

Add a superb vertical dimension to your garden with plants that have lofty aspirations: ramblers, scramblers, climbers, and twiners. Consider a few of my favorites:

Award-winning Clematis Blue Pirouette (a/k/a C. ‘Zobluepi’) Z 5-8 has beautiful blue/purple open-faced flowers with four elegantly twisted, curled sepals, and long, strong, flowering stems. It was the first Clematis sold commercially as a cut flower and several stems were included in Queen Elizabeth’s traditional bouquet at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Blue Pirouette produces abundant bloom in summer and will grow 5-6 feet tall. In my garden it thrives in a large container with obelisk support.

Pirouette’s container mate is the award-winning, Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ Z 4-9, a beloved old cultivar that begins flowering a little later than Pirouette and can attain a height of 10-13 feet. Masses of double, vibrant magenta flowers attract pollinators — and Blue Pirouette. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Both Clematis belong in Pruning Group 3 and should be hard pruned in early Spring because they bloom on new growth. Grow in sun or part shade, with well-drained, moist, rich, alkaline soil. I fertilize with compost and wood ash. 

 

Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) Z 6-8 is an outstanding, deciduous woody ornamental. In summer, against a backdrop of handsome, dark-green foliage, it produces showy, large, flat, lacecap type flowers. (Note that the flowers of subsp. petiolaris often lack the sterile flower edging of the traditional lacecap Hydrangea.) When the fertile flower buds open, they release an intoxicating fragrance that carries on the air. The plant is a self-help climber: aerial roots — “holdfasts” — grow along the main reddish-brown stem and will attach to most vertical surfaces. But the support must be substantial — this hefty Hydrangea can reach thirty feet or more. Mine grow up large, established oak trees.  Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Provide well-drained, rich, moist soil. The plant is pH-adaptable but may develop chlorosis in high pH soils. It can prosper in sun or shade but should be protected against the intense afternoon sun. If you need to prune, do so right after flowering before the new buds appear; the plant flowers on old wood. It can withstand a hard prune but it probably won’t bloom the following year.

Among its many assets, the hydrangea’s flowers attract bees and butterflies and when the flowers fade they are replaced with attractive seedheads. And the foliage turns autumnal yellow in the Fall.

I also grow the cultivar, Hydrangea ‘Miranda’. While it has been in my garden for many years, it has never bloomed. I don’t know why and the plant ain’t talkin’. Yet, for me, it’s worth keeping for its beautiful variegated foliage. Photo below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

bric-a-brac:

1. While we have all been suffering this summer’s oppressive heat and humidity my carefree fig tree has been dancin’ a happy jig. It is loaded with figs that are quite mature for July. Photo below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

2. I recently saw—and recommend— the 1937 award-winning film, “The Life of Emile Zola,” a powerful drama about a big lie and a courageous fight for truth and justice. Sound familiar?

MAY 2021: Rhododendrons

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

And they make me happy.

Early Spring/2021: Expectations

Spring is a season ripe with expectation — and trepidation.

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright Proven Winners. Used with permission

 

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

copyright 2021 — American Horticultural Society. Used with permission

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

The American Gardener article about lily of the valley, by C. Colston Burrell, is both interesting and informative and can be accessed by clicking on https://ahsgardening.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Convallaria-TAG-MA21.pdf. The 6 bi-monthly issues of The American Gardener are a benefit of membership in the American Horticultural Society and are not generally available to non-members. In my opinion, it is one of the best garden magazines for the home gardener.

 

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

 

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

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

2020/2021: Look Back & March Forward

A beloved 100-year-old fig tree in Kenya, condemned to make way for an expressway, was granted a reprieve last month because of Kenya’s “commitment to environmental conservation.” Saving the ancient fig warmed my heart.

Quite different from the Trump Administration’s flagrant disregard of environmental conservation and protection here in the United States. There have been more than 60 federal protective rules and regulations reversed or rolled back, resulting in a significant increase of probable harm to our health and well-being. (See also Blog post: “Jan/Feb 2018: Toxic Chemical Alert”.)

Thankfully, remedial action will begin on January 20.

Now a look back at my garden year 2020 with a focus on three easy-care, beautiful, interesting, flowering shrubs you may wish to add to your 2021 garden:

Rhododendron ‘Jenny Tabol’ is a large-leaf evergreen that produces in May an abundance of unique, butter-yellow flowers with pink highlights. Rhododendron ‘Zulu’ is a tall, semi-evergreen, Glenn Dale azalea that dazzles in May with masses of purple bloom; in the Fall its foliage turns autumnal shades of orange, pink, and gold. Both shrubs have flourished for many years in well-drained, acidic, rich organic soil in shade. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Pieris japonica ‘Angel Falls’ is an extraordinary evergreen shrub with all-season interest. It is a sport of P. Valley Valentine and has similar rose-pink, fragrant, April flowers. But unlike Valley Valentine’s green foliage, Angel Falls sports vibrant, showy green and white variegated foliage. A sight to see in winter paired with its magenta flower buds. Purchased as a one-gallon plant, after nine years the shrub has grown about 2 feet and has assumed the form of a dwarf tree. Culture requirements are the same as the Rhododendrons. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld


copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

I am looking forward to Spring 2021. I have fabulous plants on order and after twenty-five years of avoiding bulbs because of voles, I’ve planted tulips, daffodils and crocus. I’ll let you know how that turns out. And I hope, with vaccination, it will finally be safe for me and my husband to hug our kids.

From our family to yours: Wishing You All a Joyous, Healthy, New Year!

Be well. Stay safe.

Autumn 2020 Playing Mozart: Epigaea repens

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

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

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

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

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

‘God be praised’ the Pilgrim said,

Who saw the blossoms peer

Above the brown leaves, dry and dead,

‘Behold our Mayflower here!’

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

Be well, stay safe. And vote!!!

2020 Summer Fragrance: Roses, Roses, Roses

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

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

Noakes: Why, the hermit.

Lady Croom: Where is he?

Noakes: Madam?

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

Noakes: Indeed, madam—

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

Noakes: I have no hermits, my lady.

Lady Croom: Not one? I am speechless.

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

Lady Croom: Advertise?

Noakes: In the newspapers.

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

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

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

 

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

All of us.

 

copyright 2020 – Jessica Amsterdam

Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!

Spring 2020: Rhododendron Elepidotes

As though we don’t have enough trouble with a killer virus, now we have to deal with killer insects — the Asian Giant Hornets a/k/a the “murder hornets.” They decapitate bees and then feed on them. They can wipe out a hive in a matter of hours.

And they don’t stop with bees. In Japan, hornet stings have killed up to fifty people a year. Beekeepers are especially vulnerable; a hornet’s stinger can easily puncture a beekeeping suit. (As one beekeeper described the stings: “It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh.”)

Asian Giant Hornets are aggressive killers and now they are in the U.S.  Several were found in Washington State. Thankfully, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, they have not migrated East — yet.

For more info on the hornets — and for all other horticultural inquiries — call the Cornell Phone Help Line: 631-727-4126, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-12 noon. Or email: sib7@cornell.edu or aw242@cornell.edu.  An invaluable resource.

Before moving on to my summer garden, I want to feature, for your consideration, a choice group of May-blooming, large-leaf, evergreen elepidote Rhododendrons:

Rhododendron ‘Loderi King George’ is one of my all-time favorite plants. Bred in Great Britain, King George received an Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. From pink buds the shrub produces masses of gorgeous, large, richly-perfumed snow-white blossoms in May. The fragrance carries on the air in the garden — and in the house. Photos below.

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

For decades in my zone 7 organic garden the plant has been a hardy, reliable yearly bloomer. The evergreen foliage does suffer winter damage but it is quickly replaced in Spring by new green growth. Provide acid, well-drained soil in a shady site sheltered from wind.

 

Rhododendron ‘Mario Pagliarini’ is another sweetly fragrant, hardy May bloomer. Dressed in healthy evergreen foliage and abundant, large, lilac-pink flowers — that age to white with traces of pink — Mario is a wondrous sight to see. And to smell — the fragrance carries on the air. Photos below.

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

After 15 years or so my shrub is now about eight feet high and nine feet across, so provide adequate space for Mario to express himself. R. ‘Mario Pagliarini’ thrives in shade and rich, acid, well-drained soil.

 

Rhododendron ‘Vinecrest’ is a multiple-award-winning shrub bred for extreme winter hardiness. I can attest to the breeder’s success. After suffering single-digit frigid weather, Vinecrest’s evergreen foliage remained in pristine condition and its flower buds were undamaged.  Winter hardiness is an essential attribute. Yet, for me, it is the ethereal beauty of the May butter-yellow flowers and peach-colored buds that make Vinecrest irresistible. Provide shade and rich, well-drained acid soil. Photos below.

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

(Note: R.’Vinecrest’ is not fragrant, though some have suggested otherwise.)

 

Embrace the exciting world of Rhododendrons. Your garden will thank you.

 

Finally, my Grandpets would like to say hello. In order of appearance, my beautiful Grandcat, Callie — who never met a box she didn’t like — followed by my lovable Granddogs, Sammy and Zoe. Rescue pets all.

copyright 2020 — Jessica Amsterdam

copyright 2020 — Jessica Amsterdam

copyright 2020 — Ashley Cox

copyright 2020 — Ashley Cox

 

Be well. Stay safe.

Spring 2020: Mezitt Rhododendron Part 2

Part 2

All of the Mezitt Rhododendron lepidotes featured here are very cold-hardy, disease/insect resistant, and do well in both sun and shade:

Rhododendron ‘Mrs. J.A. Withington 111’

I adore R. ‘Mrs. J.A. Withington 111.’ In April/May this flamboyant blue blood is entirely draped in a glorious cloak of purple powder puffs. Quite a sensation. As a bonus, the shrub’s evergreen foliage turns bronzy-green in the Fall.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron ‘Lilac Crest’

R. ‘Lilac Crest’ is like a lilac-pink-white mini Mrs. Withington. It is more compact and its May flowers resemble little pom-poms. The semi-evergreen shrub’s flower buds are white with lilac-pink tips; when the white flowers fully open, they are flushed with color.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron ‘Landmark’

Garden literature often styles R. ‘Landmark’ as a long-awaited red-flowering lepidote. In the right light and at a distance the flowers may look red. But, in truth, the showy May bloom is a rich dark pink — highly attractive to bees. In Autumn the evergreen foliage turns mahogany-bronze.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

For decades the chorus of six captivating Mezitt Rhododendron lepidotes featured here and in Part 1 have flourished in my shady, organic garden and I treasure them all.

My friend the late Hank Schannen, founder of Rarefind Nursery, was also an accomplished Rhododendron hybridizer. Here is Hank’s famous take on Rhododendron plant culture:

12 Criteria For Success With Rhododendron

  1. Drainage
  2. Drainage
  3. Drainage
  4. Drainage
  5. Drainage
  6. Drainage
  7. Acid pH
  8. Dappled shade
  9. Able to water when needed
  10. If containerized, loosen roots (viciously)
  11. When in doubt, plant HIGH
  12. Hmm—More DRAINAGE

Be well. Stay safe.

2020 Spring Fragrance: Pieris, Skimmia, Magnolia

Insects Rule!

A recent scientific study revealed that when insects chew on organic fruits and vegetables the plants respond by significantly increasing antioxidant compounds. If insect feeding triggers a plant’s defenses, ultimately resulting in more nutritious, healthier produce, must we now seek out insect-damaged food?

An interesting conundrum.

Not, however, my focus here. With the deadly Coronavirus currently shadowing our lives, I want to celebrate and share with you plants that nurture the soul: Spring-blooming, beautiful, fragrant, disease/pest-resistant woody ornamentals:

Pieris x ‘Spring Snow’ Z 5-7

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

P. x ‘Spring Snow’ is an evergreen, compact, early-Spring-blooming cross between P. japonica and the U.S. native P. floribunda. From showy pink buds the shrub produces luminous, snowy-white upright flowers that release their fragrance on the air, attracting bumble bees, butterflies and this gardener. After more than twenty-five years my shrub is now only about three feet tall, ideal for both small and large gardens. It has been a healthy, reliable bloomer despite frigid winters and hot, humid summers. Foliage new growth is bronzy-red before turning dark green and is toxic to deer, so they leave it alone. Pieris x ‘Spring Snow’ is insect-resistant as well. (Grow in shade and you won’t be troubled with lace-bug. In my shady organic garden all the Pieris have been deer-proof and insect-free.)

Provide organic-rich, well-drained, acid soil and regular water.

 

Skimmia japonica Z (6)7-8(9)

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

Skimmia is as close to perfect as a plant can be. The shrub’s magnolia-like, thick-textured, dark green leaves are evergreen, and if rubbed or bruised emit a strong herbal scent that effectively repels deer. In early Spring, Skimmia produces masses of fragrant flowers–even as a young plant. It has flourished and bloomed for me every Spring for more than thirty years, filling the garden with delicious perfume. In late summer/fall the female plants produce decorative clusters of fat red berries. (Skimmia japonica is dioecious and requires both male and female plants for fruit.)

The shrub does well here in zone 7, despite periods of horrific weather. Zone 6 may be iffy, but with global warming — and a little protection — surely worth a try. Essential requirements include moist, acid, well-drained soil, and, most important, SHADE.

 

Magnolia ‘Pegasus’ Z 5-8

 

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

This lovely Magnolia was named after the Greek mythological winged horse Pegasus, which, according to legend, sprung out of the gruesome monster Medusa’s neck when Medusa was killed. (Pretty imaginative, those Greeks.) I’ve included photos of the Horse and the Magnolia so you can judge for yourself whether the name fits. To my mind it’s more of a match when the flower opens wide. Earlier, the flower looks more like a tall tulip.

Magnolia ‘Pegasus’ has an interesting history. In 1936 Mrs. J. Norman Henry of Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, received seed of Magnolia cylindrica from the Lu Shan Botanic Garden in China. She planted the seed and when it germinated, scions were widely distributed. M. Pegasus can be traced back to that original seed. (Note: It is now suggested that there was a bit of Magnolia hanky-panky in Lu Shan; the Henry seed may have resulted from a natural marriage (tryst?) between M. cylindrica and M. denudata. Didn’t think Magnolias could be naughty, did ya?)

M.’Pegasus’ is a very winter-hardy, healthy, deciduous tree. It has been a reliable April bloomer, and the flowers have a pleasing soft fragrance. The literature speaks of attractive, bright red cylindrical fruiting cones but I’ve never seen one. (Maybe this year?)  After decades in the garden, my tree is about 10 feet high. Provide moist, rich, well-drained acid soil and sun or dappled shade.

Be well. Stay safe.

Spring 2020: March Magic

I recently read the book Life Happens, a compilation of smart, delightful newspaper columns by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Connie Schultz. In one insightful column, Schultz recalled the time a friend’s teenage son had to pick a language in college:

“He grew up in Miami, so naturally she thought he’d pick the language he’d been hearing, reading, and speaking since he was a toddler.

Spanish, she thought. He’ll take Spanish.

Silly Mom.

He took Italian. ‘The line was shorter’, he said”

Teenagers are unpredictable.

They share this trait with Mother Nature who has moved to Crazyville.  And now, in addition to the horrors of climate change, we have to contend with the deadly Coronavirus. Clearly, there is every reason to retreat to the comfort of the garden and celebrate the awakening beauty and magic of Spring:

Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Mahogany Red’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

This upright, willowy, deciduous Rhododendron is one tough plant. Although we had a relatively mild winter this year, my Mahogany Red has been a hardy, reliable Spring bloomer after severe, frigid weather as well. The magenta flowers provide a bright, joyful glow in the March garden. In the Fall, the attractive, small green leaves turn lovely autumnal colors. Provide adequate water and well-drained acid soil.

 

Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

The fragrance of the abundant, small, creamy-white flowers of this twiggy, deciduous honeysuckle carries on the air and fills the garden with heavenly scent. It too is a hardy, reliable bloomer, and isn’t particular about soil pH. Winter Beauty does require regular moisture and well-drained soil in sun or part-shade. No Fall color to speak of, but, oh, that perfume in early Spring is enough for me!

 

I’ve had a number of herbal surprises. My rosemary over-winters outside in a container. It is usually brown and dead about now and needs replacing. But not this year. Photos below of downtrodden rosemary under a pile of snow in December, and the very same rosemary now — upright once again, green, and full of life.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

And the chives in the outdoor herb container made a surprising early comeback in March, along with the oregano. Photos below.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

It’s surely going to be an interesting year in the garden.

 

I highly recommend Connie Schultz’s book Life Happens. (Did I mention that it has two of her columns on gardening?) I also liked and recommend her book . . . and His Lovely Wife, Schultz’s insider’s take on the political campaign of her husband, Senator Sherrod Brown. Perfect reading in this election year.

Finally, in closing, my favorite true story about teenagers:

Mother to teenage daughter: “Your behavior is outrageous. Can’t you act like a normal person?”

Daughter: “I’m not a normal person. I’m a teenager.”

Mother: “Don’t threaten me!”

Happy Spring!

February 2020: A Glass Half Full

Optimism.

According to recent studies, optimists enjoy a lower risk of cardiovascular and other diseases and they have a lower mortality rate in general.  As one researcher put it: “Optimists tend to pursue strategies that make a rosy future a reality.” They live healthier and they live longer.

It was suggested that anyone can decrease the toxic effect of negativity and build a muscle of positive thinking by trying to feel more grateful. Not an easy prescription to fill: Today the United States Senate wrongfully refused to save us from a proven dangerous, self-serving, ethically corrupt President. Scary.

Yet, there is an upcoming election in November and I do believe and trust in the American people’s sense of justice. Voters will surely remove him. As Yogi Berra famously said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

We just have to survive for 9 months.

As usual, I look to my well-loved garden for insight and support. Consider this: Holding fast for nine months will probably be a piece of cake compared to the survival of the Ginkgo, a tree species that has been around for about 200 million years despite untold horrific insults — climatic and otherwise. Our tree (Ginkgo biloba ‘Elmwood’) gives us pleasure every single day and we are grateful for it. Photos Below.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Ditto for the beautiful Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’) that in brave defiance of winter’s wrath is now in full, fragrant, and most welcome bloom.

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Yes, still much to be grateful for.

 

2019 Garden Year Review: Fragrant Plants

As the years roll by, I more fully appreciate this lament:

“While the spirit is still soaring eagerly onward and upward, the old bones and cartilage begin to insist that they can no longer handle the demands being made on them….What I object to is the steady process of gradual dilapidation: now it’s the knees, then the back, and in my case the eyes….I would propose we all go vigorously full speed ahead until our time is up, then fall suddenly on our faces, finished. I myself would like to meet Death in the flower garden—falling facedown onto a cushion of Dianthus gratianopolitanus.” [Sheldon, Elisabeth, Time and the Gardener (Beacon Press 2003)].

 

Yet, happily, there are recent studies designed to help us maintain our good health and well-being. For example, it has been shown that diets high in fiber — found in food like fruit, avocados, broccoli, and sweet potatoes — reduce the risk of intestinal disorder, heart disease and diabetes, and that fiber along with yogurt reduces the risk of lung cancer.

There are also positive health advantages to adopting a dog: People who own dogs live longer; they have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and reduced symptoms of depression.

Note: If you are unable to take on the responsibility of a real dog, research has suggested that even a stuffed animal could alleviate some behavioral and psychological symptoms. In fact, even if you don’t have medical problems you might like Jennie, a robot modeled on a 10-week-old Labrador puppy. Photo below.

 

For me, the extraordinary benefits and rewards of working with nature far outweigh the problems. As I look back at the garden year 2019, I’m reminded of the immense joy I receive from fragrant flowering shrubs whose perfume carries on the air. Aromatherapy in my own backyard:

Bloom: March/April. Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis (Sweetbox) Z 6-8

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Bloom: May/June. Philadelphus coronarius (Sweet Mockorange) Z 5-8

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Bloom: May/June. Cytisus scoparius ‘Moonlight’ (Scotch Broom) Z 5-8

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Bloom: June-November. Rosa ‘Belle Vichysoise’ (Noisette Rose ) Z 7-9

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Bloom: July/August. Hydrangea paniculata Z 5-8

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Bloom: September/October. Osmanthus x fortunei ‘UNC’ Z 7-9

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

When an early November freeze rudely zapped both garden bloom and autumnal leaf color change, instead of two aspirin and a nice lie-down this gardener opted for Plan B:

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

2020 is just a shiver away. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Autumn 2019: Caterpillars & Foliage Undersides

Caterpillars are fascinating.

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

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

copyright 2019 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2019 — Jessica Amsterdam

 

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

And I think I know who to thank for that.

copyright 2019 – Jessica Amsterdam

Summer 2019: Plants & Travel

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

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

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

Here are a few more highlights of our NH trip:

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

Geranium macrorrhizum

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

Kalmia latifolia ‘Carol’ (Mountain Laurel)

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

 

Heliotropium arborescens (Heliotrope White)

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

Rhododendron prunifolium (Plumleaf Azalea)

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

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

March/April 2019: Early Spring

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

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

Ah, Spring, at last.

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

But we cope and move on.

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

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2019 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

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

2019: A Choice Selection of Garden Plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pycnanthemum muticum (Mountain Mint) Z. 4-8

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

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) Z 3-9

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

 

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

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

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

copyright – Bluestone Perennials

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

Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’ Z. 4-8

copyright – Bluestone Perennials

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

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

copyright – Bluestone Perennials

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

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

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