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Autumn 2017: Snap, Crackle and Pop

“Autumn is a second Spring”, said Albert Camus, “when every leaf is a flower.”

Sadly, not every leaf. This year our oaks, colorful superstars of Autumn, are clothed in dry, brown leaves that never turned their usual vibrant shades of orange and red.

Yet, with the looming threat of deadly Oak Wilt Disease (see post of July 3, “Summer 2017: Roses & Clematis”) we are grateful that our trees are still alive. Moreover, other showy plants have taken up the slack, like Enkianthus and Japanese Maples. Photos below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Adding to the snap, crackle and pop is the fiery autumn foliage of the native Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina. Our shrub (small tree?) was a welcome gift from the birds. (Thanks to the Cornell Cooperative Extension for the ID!) Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

In addition to the Camus ‘leaf flowers’, there are real flowers to admire and celebrate in the Fall. Standouts in my garden are the repeat-blooming evergreen azaleas. Consider my long adored Rhododendron ‘Marshy Point’s Humdinger’, a time-tested reliable Spring/Autumn bloomer with disease-resistant foliage. Photo below. (For additional photos and for more information about Humdinger, see posts of November 2011, March 2013, and December 2015.)

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And new to my garden is the handsome evergreen azalea, Rhododendron Bloom-a-Thon Pink Double. The shrub possesses a winning combination of abundant ruffled, pink flowers in Spring, Summer and Fall, and healthy, dark green foliage. Photo below.

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

{Note: Most Rhododendrons form flower buds in the Summer and Fall and bloom only in the Spring. A few of these plants are beguiled by warm weather spurts in the Fall and Winter and are seduced into bloom—as in the photo below. When the emerging flowers are zapped by the cold, Spring bloom is diminished if not destroyed altogether. Heartbreaking. A lawyer should sue Mother Nature for wrongful death.}

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Autumn 2017: Fig Fundamentals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A major disappointment.

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

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

2017: Summer End Game

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

Summer 2017: Roses & Clematis

Trouble in Paradise:

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

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

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

Pretty In Pink:

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

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

Spring 2017: Fragrant Radiance

We live in an extraordinarily trying time.

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Dee Finkelstein

Spring 2017: Resplendent Rhododendrons

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

Hank Schannen’s 12 Criteria for Success with Rhododendron

1. Drainage

2. Drainage

3. Drainage

4. Drainage

5. Drainage

6. Drainage

7. Acid pH

8. Dappled shade

9. Able to water when needed

10. If containerized, loosen roots (viciously)

11. When in doubt, plant it HIGH!

12. Hmmm – More DRAINAGE!!!

 

How to kill a rhododendron:

1 .Southwest corner of a house

2. Full sun

3. Heavy clay soil

4. Wet – poor drainage

5. Down spout nearby

6. Neutral/alkaline pH

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

8. Ignore Criteria above

2017 Early Spring: Camellias & Honeysuckle

Spring is really here!

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

And Mother Nature is full of surprises.

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

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

2017: Year Of The Rooster & Global Warming

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

Will any birds sing for us?

Jan.\Feb. 2017: Fragrant Native Plants

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2017 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

December 2016: A New York State Of Mind

Holiday Tips: Last week my daughter and I had a fabulous day in Manhattan celebrating the holiday season in true New York style — eating and shopping!

We started the day on a high, scoring a window table for breakfast at the Rock Center Cafe. The restaurant’s wall of windows backs on the Rockefeller Center ice rink and faces the famous Rockefeller Center tree. Photo below of the tree taken from our window. (Yet, while the tree was glorious, the fun was in exchanging joyful waves with the skaters.) We also liked the outdoor soldier-musicians. Photo below. And the nearby festive storefronts and windows. Photos below. (All Manhattan photos printed here with permission of Jessica Amsterdam.)

tree-close-from-window

drummer

saks-window-4_closer

saks-window-1

 

As for shopping, among other things I found a lovely — and dishwasher safe — coffee mug that spoke my name. It makes me smile every morning — Italian elegant simplicity in white with a touch of vibrant red. Photo below. (Available from Eataly with decorative handles in a variety of colors.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, a tip for the garden: Since I’m in a New York state of mind, I recommend an outstanding native New York shrub, Rhododendron calendulaceum (Flame Azalea). This Spring-blooming deciduous Azalea (most frequently associated with the Appalachian Mountains) has flourished for 13 years in my organic garden. R. calendulaceum can be quite variable in flower color — shades of red, pink, orange and yellow are possible. Photos below of my beautiful salmon-orange bloomer.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Wishing you all a joyous holiday and a happy, healthy New Year!

December 2016: Singin’ The Blues

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

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

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Autumn 2016: Garden Successes Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

So, this year, I did.

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

2016 Garden Successes: Part 2

The luminous, evergreen Rhododendron ‘Solidarity’ was hybridized by my friend, the late great plantsman, Hank Schannen. Several plants have flourished in my garden for over 20 years, despite Mother Nature’s relentless assaults. Given shade, well draining acid soil and adequate water, Solidarity has been disease free and has bloomed reliably every year. With dark pink buds that open to extra-large pink flowers that fade to white, the vigorous shrub is a sight to behold. Photo below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Another May/June bloomer gracing my garden is Hank Schannen’s favorite Azalea, the dazzling Rhododendron ‘Ben Morrison’.  Equally hardy and disease free, it’s a unique evergreen Azalea with bi-color flower buds as striking as its abundant flowers. Photos below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

A plant that does not perform with vigor, yet survived horrific icy winters and oppressively hot and droughty summers, Tree Peony, Paeonia ‘Yae Zakura’ (Host of Cherry Blossoms) is enchanting. I’m so besotted that if the plant only produces one or two exquisite, shell-pink flowers, I’d be content. Amend the planting soil with lime and or wood ash if your garden soil is acid. Photos below of Yae Zakura’s flower and colorful Fall foliage.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, for both beauty and vigor, I recommend the award-winning herbaceous peony, Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’. Photos below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

September 2016: Ode To Late Summer

Recent editions of an Oxford Junior Dictionary, aimed at seven-year-olds, eliminated the following words that the editors considered no longer relevant to the lives of modern children: “acorn”, “dandelion”, “fern”, “nectar” and “pasture.” I find this very sad.

Sadder still, was this Summer’s abysmal weather. In recent years, hot, muggy days and drought, likely caused by global warming, resulted in lasting damage to the landscape. So I too must identify and edit, weeding out plants — including long-time favorites — that will not thrive in a “modern” garden.

Yet, thankfully, Mother Nature’s bounty is infinite. Despite the egregious growing conditions, there were a number of garden successes worthy of mention:

Phlox paniculata.  This summer I grew several colorful, fragrant, mildew-resistant Phlox in a large container. I’m still enjoying the rewards — along with grateful hummingbirds and butterflies. Photo below. (See also post of January 2016, “What’s New: Klehm’s Song Sparrow”.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Clerodendrum trichotomum. Another plant that fills the air with delicious fragrance, Clerodendrum, commonly called Harlequin Glorybower, blooms for me in late August/early September. When the white tubular flowers fade they are followed by lovely pink calyxes. Not a bad investment for the dog days of summer. Photo below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Moreover, in October, the calyxes open to reveal pea-sized, showy, metallic-blue fruit. (For photos, see post of October 2012, “Autumn Update: Iochroma & Clerodendrum.”)

Glorybower is stoloniferous and begets many volunteers. While some regard this as a fault, I welcome fragrant, fruiting gifts from Mother Nature. So do the bees. Photo below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Henna Coleus (a/k/a Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Balcenna’). Henna is an award-winning Coleus and a 2016 trendsetter: Ruffles are the new IN THING for Fall couture and Henna has ruffles a-plenty. A Garden Fashionista. Photo below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Apart from frilly edges, Henna flaunts chartreuse centers splashed with reddish-purple, and burgundy undersides. A fabulous foliage plant for sun or shade. And Henna plays well with others. Photos below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

It has been suggested that Coleus flowers should be removed because they cause the plant to become leggy and unattractive. Not a problem with Henna, which either flowers very late in the season or not at all. (I rather like the long spikes of pale blue flowers that attract butterflies and I don’t remove them.) Photo below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

Rhododendron bureavii x yakushimanum is an outstanding foliage plant. Rhododendrons are usually celebrated for their flowers, but this shrub’s sensational new stems and foliage covered in orange suede take top billing. It is one of the most admired plants in my garden. Photo below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Albizia julibrissin ‘Summer Chocolate.’ While this Mimosa Tree produces flowers that are magnets for butterflies, it is the exquisite purple foliage that makes it a must-have plant. And ‘Summer Chocolate’ is hardy, vigorous, and easy-care. Photos below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Update: Cornus kousa ‘ Milky Way’ still a-flower in September. Photo below.

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

2016 Garden Treasure: Cornus kousa ‘Milky Way’

As recently reported by The New York Times, the Yao people of Mozambique have formed a working partnership with wild “honeyguide” birds: After communicating through an exchange of sounds and gestures, the birds lead the Yao to beehives hidden high up in trees. After the tribesmen subdue the bees and extract the honey, the birds happily eat the leftover beeswax, a good source of calories.

Impressive! But these wild birds have nothing on my helpful, domesticated Grandpets. Consider my Grandcat, Callie. When there is computer work to be done, she is always ready to lend a helping paw.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

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And sometimes more than a paw.

Callie on Computer.one

 

 

My Granddog Zoe, on the other hand, has no interest in computer work.

zoe

 

But when there was a Donkey invasion, she rose to the occasion by bravely facing down the enemy.

IMG_1323

 

I treasure my “helpful” Grandpets.

 

And when I choose plants for the garden, I treasure those that truly work for me, not the other way around. One of my favorites is the Kousa Dogwood, ‘Milky Way’. As a general rule, kousas bloom in the month of June. The amazing Milky Way blooms continuously from June through August—oft-times into September. That is flower power! (June, July, August photos below.)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

When the flowers finally fade, the tree produces an abundance of green lollypop-like fruit that eventually turns scarlet red. Irresistible to songbirds. And in the Fall, Milky Way’s dark green foliage turns glorious shades of autumnal orange. Moreover, when established, the trunk bark exfoliates like a Stewartia. A stellar multi-season performer.

Kousas are free of the dreaded anthracnose disease that has devastated our native dogwood population, Cornus florida. Indeed, for the twenty years Milky Way has graced my garden, it’s been entirely disease-free. Provide rich, acid, well-drained soil.

NOTE: August heat-waves and drought create problem conditions for plants. But not for the August blooming, shrub-like, hardy perennial, Hibiscus ‘Jazzberry Jam’. This is its fifth season in my garden and every year–regardless of weather–the huge, gorgeous flowers attract hummingbirds, bumble bees and me!  A late-summer WOW plant.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

July 2016: Summer Fragrance

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

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

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

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

June 2016: Rhododendron Razzle-Dazzle

Charles Owen Dexter is one of the most admired and interesting American plantsmen. He didn’t begin breeding Rhododendrons until his early sixties, yet his output was phenomenal: In the 1920’s and 30’s he produced well over 100,000 hybrid seedlings. Hundreds of these seedlings were given to public botanical gardens and the like, as well as to individuals.

Unfortunately, since Dexter didn’t keep breeding records or name his plants, confusion followed: Often the same seedling was grown in two different places with two different names. Or even worse.

Consider the controversy over the award-winning Rhododendron ‘Janet Blair’. The plant was growing amid a group of Dexter hybrid seedlings in the garden of Rhododendron hybridizer, David Leach. Leach named, introduced, registered, and sold the plant as his own, not as a Dexter hybrid. In fact, R.’Janet Blair’ was David Leach’s most commercially successful introduction.

Modern testing has now proven R.’Janet Blair’ to be identical to the Dexter hybrid, R.’John Wister’.

Whatever the legal or ethical ramifications  — i.e. bragging rights, royalties, etc. — Dexter’s R.’Janet Blair’/R.’John Wister’ is a plant worth having. In addition to its virtues of fragrance, beauty and good health, it blooms at an early age and reliably thereafter. One of my favorites. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

I have two other Dexter hybrids with an interesting history. In the 1930’s, Henry Francis du Pont acquired from Charles Dexter several flats of seedlings and planted them at his Delaware estate, Winterthur. From the original seedlings that survived and flowered, sixty or so were selected as good doers and were given identifying numbers. Tiny seedlings of some of these numbered plants — propagated from cuttings — were included in the plant sale at the 2004 American Rhododendron Society Convention in Pennsylvania.

And that’s how Dexter’s Winterthur 7 & 8 came to grace my garden.

We anxiously waited a very long time for the tiny seedlings to bloom (2015 for 7 and 2016 for 8) but that simply increased our joy and celebration when it happened. (Photos below of 7 & 8 growing next to each other, followed by a closeup photo of 7’s flowers.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

[Note: When Winterthur numbered the Dexter hybrids, alongside the numbers 7 & 8 Henry du Pont noted: 7 (“pink, good flower”) and 8 (“clear mauve”). Our plant 7 is indeed pink and the flower is indeed good, but 8’s flower isn’t mauve. In fact, 8’s flower looks very similar to 7’s flower. Methinks maybe there was a tag mix up at the 2004 plant sale. No matter. We love both plants and applaud the American Rhododendron Society for making them available for home-garden purchase.]

 

2016 was a very good year for Rhododendron bloom. Worthy of mention here is a plant with a Dexter connection, R.’Cape White’, hybridized by Jack Cowles, the Superintendent/Horticulturist at the Dexter Estate from 1959-1967. Cape White’s flowers have raspberry buds that open to violet pink — before they fully open, the flowers look like cherry-vanilla ice cream cones — and eventually the high-domed, ruffled flowers fade to a light lavender. Quite somethin’. The bees agree. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

The Dexter Estate is now called Heritage Museums and Gardens, Sandwich, MA, and is open to the public. Among other things, there is a significant collection of Dexter and Cowles hybrids. In addition, for purposes of fund-raising, they offer members of the public an opportunity to name a Rhododendron. Check out the website: heritagemuseumsandgardens.org

 

Finally, let’s look to the future of Rhododendron breeding. Here are some of the outstanding hybrids bred by an accomplished modern-day breeder from Long Island, New York, Werner Brack. (Photos below.)

courtesy of Werner Brack

courtesy of Werner Brack

Royal Star X Purple Lace courtesy of Werner Brack

Royal Star X Purple Lace
courtesy of Werner Brack

Shoreham courtesy of Werner Brack

Shoreham
courtesy of Werner Brack

White Elegance copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

White Elegance
copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

The future is golden.

Spring 2016: Beautiful Gardens of Virginia

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

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

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

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

Spring 2016: A Singing Bird May Come

According to an ancient proverb: “If you keep a green tree in your heart, a singing bird may come.”

Last month, at a rally in an indoor arena filled with thousands of jubilant supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, a tiny songbird suddenly appeared and flew over to the podium to be with Bernie. A joyous and magical moment.

Talking about birds, did you know that a group of Flamingos is called a Flamboyance? I found this delightful nugget of information in a small gem of a book released this year by Ten Speed Press: Maja Safstrom’s “THE illustrated COMPENDIUM OF amazing ANIMAL FACTS.”

Sadly, we aren’t all blessed with Flamingos, but we can easily achieve Spring Flamboyance in the garden by planting Rhododendron ‘Amoena’. This gorgeous, old-timey evergreen azalea is a hardy, vigorous shrub, and a reliable May bloomer. Mine flourishes in sandy acid soil in shade. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

If you prefer understated elegance, one of my favorite early Spring bloomers — sharing the same culture requirements as Amoena — is the evergreen native shrub, Chamaedaphne calyculata ‘Tiny Tom.’ In April, Tom’s elegant wand-like stems are cloaked with dainty, snowy-white, dangling bells. (Photo below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

For long-blooming elegance, you can’t beat Helleborus — my  hellebore flowers opened in March and continue to bloom despite subsequent snow storms and frigid weather. Helleborus does best in sweet soil. I amend my acid soil with lime and wood ash. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

HOT TIP: To ensure success in the garden this year, plant Trifolium purpurascens and enjoy a steady supply of lucky four-leaf clovers. (Photo below.)

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Trifolium purpurascens is not widely available. My well-grown healthy plants were purchased by mail order from Bluestone Perennials, in Ohio. (bluestoneperennials.com; Phone: 800-852-5243).

2016: March Madness & The Stumpery

After our oak trees produced a record number of acorns, I expected a long and frigid winter to follow. It was anything but. While we had loony temperature swings — 50 degrees one day and 2 degrees above zero the next — for the most part we enjoyed the warmest winter in years.

Following the February snowstorm depicted in the photo below (taken from my kitchen window) it was pretty much smooth sailing into Spring.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Here are some March highlights from the garden:

The first daffodil.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

White flowering Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ and pink flowering P. japonica ‘Valley Valentine’ blooming a month earlier than usual.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Early Pussy Willows (catkins) of the Goat Willow (Salix caprea).

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

The stunning magenta flowering Witchhazel (Hamamelis ‘Amethyst’).

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And, then, just one week later, it was Spring! (Spring photos of the garden below)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

Spring photos??? Huh???

I guess Mother Nature could not resist a Last LOL.

Hot Tip: Beetles killed one of my beloved, half-century old, majestic pine trees. Instead of having it hauled away, I honored the tree by creating a garden Stumpery with its trunk. (Photos below.)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And please indulge my re-cycled oak tree, Spider Man, who rightfully demanded equal blog time. (He has managed to come thru many a winter with hat and sunglasses intact!)

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Simple joys in a time of vicious terrorist attacks.

February 2016: Natives Only? Humbug!!!

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

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

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

HUH????

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

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

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

All the birds.

copyright 2016 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

2016 What’s New: Klehm’s Song Sparrow

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

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

 

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

Photo credit to Walters Gardens, Inc.

Photo credit to Walters Gardens, Inc.

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

 

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

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

Photo credit to Ball Horticultural Company

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

 

Carex siderosticha ‘Snow Cap’ z. 5-9.

Photo credit to Walters Gardens, Inc.

Photo credit to Walters Gardens, Inc.

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

 

Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii Candy z. 4-7

Photo credit to Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Photo credit to Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

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

 

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

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

2015 Year-End Beauty/Spring Promise

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

 

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

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, the natural splendor of a mossy cushion.

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

Autumn 2015: Flora Electric

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

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sept./Oct. 2015: Early Autumn Delights

A FEW GARDEN CREATURES:

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

PLANTS:

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

July/August 2015: Summer Fragrance

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

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

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

BEFORE VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

BEFORE VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

AFTER VINEGAR
copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

June 2015: SPLENDID SURVIVORS

THIS WAS THE WORST WINTER EVER!!!

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

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

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2016 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

Good news alert: Coffee is the new blueberry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

Spring has truly sprung! Good riddance to this:

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

And say hello to a few fabulous early Spring bloomers:

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

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

copyright 2015 - Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2015  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2015 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

2015 What’s New?: Deer Country Gardens

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

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

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

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

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 -- Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2014 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

 

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

courtesy of Deer Country Gardens

photo courtesy of Deer Country Gardens

 

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

photo by permission of Proven Winners

photo by permission of Proven Winners

 

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

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

 

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

 

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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