Archive | 2022

May 2022: A Magnolia & A Camellia

I love Bumblebees.

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

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

Magnolia denudata ‘Yellow River’ Z 4-9

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

Camellia japonica ‘Korean Fire’ Z 6-9

                                                                                                                                                                      copyright 2022  Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

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

2022: Spring Has Sprung

How joyous the sudden emergence in the garden of yellow, purple, and white crocus, golden daffodils, and the deliciously fragrant flowers of the March-blooming honeysuckle, Lonicera purpusii. Spring is here!

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

As I think about the growing seasons ahead, I’m mindful of what Lewis Carroll’s White Queen said to Alice: “It’s a poor sort of memory,” she said, “that only works backward.” Isn’t that the truth. Since Mother Nature moved to Crazyville, it would certainly help with the planning if we could remember now what manic weather she will produce in the future. Still, we can look back and learn from our plants that have prospered despite MN’s insults.

In this post, I’d like to celebrate and share with you a number of healthy, beautiful, Rhododendrons that have flourished in my organic garden for many years. All do well with regular water in well-drained, acid, organically rich soil, in shade.  I can recommend with confidence the following time-tested shrubs:

Rhododendron ‘Solidarity’ Z 5-8. Evergreen Large-leafed Elepidote

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

This is the signature plant of RareFind Nursery and was bred by the late Hank Schannen, founder/owner of RareFind. Solidarity produces showy flowers in May that open dark pink and fade to light pink and white. An impressive, sought-after shrub, named after the Polish labor union by Hank’s Polish mother.


Rhododendron ‘Taurus’ Z 6-8. Evergreen Large-leafed Elepidote.

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

This late April bloomer is a standout with its glowing red flowers and dark green foliage. It can grow 5 to 6 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide. A handsome early-season performer.


Rhododendron ‘Aglo’ a/k/a ‘Weston’s Aglo’ Z 4-8. Evergreen Small-leafed Lepidote

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

This is one of the fabulous Mezitt hybrid Lepidotes bred at Weston Nursery. In late April Aglo flaunts clusters of radiant pink flowers with vibrant red flares that are beloved by bees. In the Fall, the foliage turns a rich bronzy green.

Decades ago, I purchased these Rhododendrons from RareFind Nursery. They are still available for sale along with other outstanding plants.

New to me is RareFind’s perennial offering, Aquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’, a dwarf form of our native species with bi-color yellow and red flowers. Little Lanterns is reported to be resistant to leaf miner, the scourge of Aquilegias. A plant worth having! My order is in.

RareFind Nursery, 957 Patterson Road, Jackson NJ 08527; Visits by appointment only. Phone: 732-833-0613. The 2022 catalog is online at The email address is

Winter 2022: Glance Back/Look Forward

Glance Back:

The recently enacted 2021 Infrastructure Act contains an important provision providing financial assistance–two million a year for five years—to assist States in adopting pollinator-friendly practices and in creating pollinator-friendly habitats along roads and highways. This addresses, in part, the sharp decline in pollinator populations—bees, butterflies, et al.— which threatens our food supply. Pollinators are essential to agriculture: Approximately one third of the food we eat would not exist without them.

Pesticides and climate change—flooding, hurricanes, wildfires, drought— are major causes of pollinator loss. In 2015, the serious threat to bees led President Obama to create a study task force which, after investigation, called on the Department of Agriculture to track colony loss and to restore millions of acres of land to pollinator habitat. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened: Greatly reduced colonies of rented bees are now trucked all over the country to pollinate crops. Hopefully, Federal financial support will make a difference.

We too can help pollinators by growing a diversity of plants with a succession of bloom throughout the growing season and by eliminating pesticides in our gardens. I don’t grow crops but I would not want a garden without the joyful presence of butterflies and bumblebees. One of my favorite pollinator-friendly plants is yellow foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora) which has thickly seeded itself in the gravel driveway and gravel paths. Bees love it. And so do I. Photos below. ( Yes, foxgloves are tennis fans.)

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

In 2021, orchids (Epipactis helleborine) also volunteered in the driveway and paths. The plants have pleated leaves and short stems entirely covered with tiny, exquisite flowers. The orchid is native in Europe and has naturalized here. It was discovered in New York in 1879 and many gardeners call it the weedy orchid and pluck it out. Not me. I think it’s special. Photos below.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld


Another special plant is a Rhododendron I’ve had for years but it flowered for the first time in 2021, producing elegant, bi-color pink and primrose-yellow bells. Talk about the wow factor! All my Rhododendrons bloomed like crazy last year but this one dazzled. Its tag is long gone. Can anyone identify? Photo below.

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld


Finally, I was very impressed with Salvia Rockin’ Playin’ The Blues. I planted it last Spring and it bloomed all Summer, Fall, and into Winter. December Photo below. (See also the March 28 post, “Early Spring/2021: Expectations”.)

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld


Alas, 2021 was not all good. Hostile anti-vaccine and anti-mask agitators increased the life-threatening risk of Covid infection. And, on January 6, treasonous, domestic-terrorist thugs stormed the Capital intent on violently overthrowing our newly elected government. Very scary.

Look Forward:

Years ago, The New York Times Metropolitan Diary reported the following conversation between two women:

Woman one: “This morning I listened to NBC. They predicted a very cold day and possible heavy rain or snow flurries.”

Woman two:” I listen to CBS. They usually predict much better weather.”

Hopefully, thanks to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection and to the United States Department of Justice, 2022 may yet prove to be a CBS kind of year.

The mail-order plants I’ve purchased for 2022 make me happy. (Remember happy?) And I’ve been informed that a new mail-order Nursery, Deer Country Gardens, will open this year, specializing in deer-resistant native perennials. Something to look forward to. Much to talk about and share.

Wishing you all a Wonderful, Safe, and Healthy 2022!