Archive | 2021

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?

June 2021: A Peony & An Iris

“Had I but four feet of ground at my disposal,” said Alice Harding in 1917, “I would plant a peony in the centre and proceed to worship.” And worship she did. Big time. Harding amassed a world-famous collection of peonies and authored two comprehensive references about them.

Things haven’t changed very much. Peonies are still hard to resist. And why would you want to? Consider Peony ‘Coral Charm’ Z 3-8, which has graced my organic garden — and home — for 3 decades and is especially worthy of worship.  This dazzler enchants at every stage of its growth. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Few flowering plants can match a peony’s easy-care, beauty, disease/pest resistance, and longevity. For abundant late-May/early-June bloom, grow peonies in sun. In my organic garden they do well in shade, but with reduced bloom. (This year Coral Charm produced seven flowering stems. More than usual.)

Fall is the time to plant bare-root plants. Do not cover the fleshy crown’s pink eyes with more than two inches of soil. Deep planting is a major cause of non-bloom. And plant in well-drained sweet soil. If you have acid soil, amend with lime or wood ash from the fireplace. You can fertilize established plants in the early Spring with compost, wood ash, or rose food. (Yet, be aware that peonies have been known to flourish for years with no attention at all. Less is more.)

Deer, voles, and rabbits are not a problem. Peonies aren’t on their menus. Ants, on the other hand, may be a problem. They are attracted to the sweet nectar exuded by peony buds. Ants don’t harm the plants but they may hitch a ride on the flowers harvested for indoor arrangements. And, no, they are not essential for flowering. Ants just have a good press agent. Moreover, you can companion plant with tansy, a fool-proof ant repellent. (Colonial settlers grew tansy by the front door to keep ants from invading their homes.)

Note: Some claim that P. ‘Coral Charm’ is fragrant. This is misleading. There is a scent but to my nose not a pleasant one. Still, it doesn’t carry on the air so it’s easily avoided.

Another perennial worthy of “worship” is the rhizomatous Japanese iris, Iris ensata Z 4-9. These deliciously opulent plants — sometimes called “Botanical Butterflies” — bloom in late June into July. Photo below of my gorgeous no-name-cultivar.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

For best growth, provide a sunny planting site and acidic, moist, organic-rich, well-drained soil. Soak the bare-root rhizomes in water before planting, and plant 2-3 inches deep. Fertilize established plants in Spring with an acidic fertilizer. They don’t like dry soil, nor do they like sitting in pools of freezing water in winter. In other words, keep them well-watered in well-draining soil.  It is recommended that the plants be divided every 2 or 3 years in order to maintain vigor.

My plants grow in acidic, moist, rich soil, but in filtered sun / half-day shade and are long overdue for division. Bloom has been reduced and, unfortunately, Japanese iris is on the voles’ menu. Yet, for over 25 years my plants have soldiered on; they are healthy and produce sumptuous flowers every year.

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.

Spring 2021: Mother Nature’s Gifts

My garden is full of wonder and surprise. Mother Nature — assisted by birds, bees, and other wildlife — constantly provides us with a wonderful bounty of volunteers: Viburnum, Hydrangea, Japanese Maple, Magnolia, Ornamental Cherry, Rhododendron, and more. I’m exceedingly careful when I rake and weed because I never know what amazing plants may magically appear.

Author Verlyn Klinkenborg had a unique take on the subject of plant volunteers in his garden: “[If] the plant community on this place consisted only of individuals I had put in the ground myself, it would resemble one of those fading Midwestern farm towns where the schools have closed, the grocery stores have pulled out, and the only new building in town is the nursing home. Instead, this place is crowded with life.” (The Rural Life, Little Brown and Company, 2002.)

Here are three welcome volunteer additions to my “crowded with life” garden along with the parent plants “I had put in the ground myself” :

Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Mahogany Red’, a deciduous shrub, has for many years provided the WOW factor to my Spring garden. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Apart from its early-April spectacular bloom, Mahogany Red has been disease-free and pest-free. Deer avoid it, most likely because it is poisonous. Bumblebees, on the other hand, flock to this early-Spring flower source of nourishment. In the Fall the shrub’s foliage takes on vibrant shades of red and purple.

I’m happy to announce that my beloved plant has finally produced an heir. Looks just like Mom — but it’s not tied to Mom’s apron strings: Baby Mahogany Red volunteered on the opposite side of the gravel driveway and over 40 feet away. Photo below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Deutzia rubens produces an abundance of beautiful pink and white flowers in June. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Over a decade in my garden, it has bloomed every year and never suffered a pest or disease problem — plant virtues I appreciate. Woody shrub guru, Michael Dirr, is not a Deutzia fan. He claims that they are “often bedraggled” and “although usually dependable for flower display, rarely overwhelm one at any time of the year.” (My plant has never looked bedraggled. That may be a Georgia thing.)

I do agree with Dirr that the identification of Deutzia species “borders on impossible”. My plant was tagged D. rubens, which means colored or tinged with red — in this case pink. But garden literature says D. rubens is a white-flowering plant. And the flowers of a number of Deutzia scabra are identical to the pink and white flowers of my shrub. The Deutzia volunteer in my garden mimics its parent in form but is adorned in June with lovely pure white flowers.  I’m glad to have it. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Digitalis (Foxglove) come in a variety of color and form. I’d like to have them all. While I was shocked to find a volunteer growing in the middle of the tennis court, I was also delighted. Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Foxgloves are trouble-free.  Like R. mucronulatum, they are poisonous and deer avoid them. So do voles. (Yet, be aware that voles have added toxic Hellebores to their menu.) Normally, digitalis plants prefer shade and well-drained soil. I think a bird planted this one. Our gardening rules don’t apply to them. This bird gift resembles Digitalis ferruginea.

Bird Alert: Sadly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella linked to wild songbirds. This disease can be transmitted from birds to pets and humans. As of early April, nineteen people had become ill and eight were hospitalized. Care should be taken to wash hands after touching bird feeders or birdbaths.

Gardener Alert: Avoid Hicks Nurseries in Westbury N.Y. The plants are nice but they get an F for their treatment of customers. It isn’t worth the stress.

I do recommend Fowler’s Garden Center in Southhampton N.Y. The plants are wonderful and so is customer service.

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.