Archive | 2023

Spring 2023 Act 1: Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

You know how it is with an April day

When the sun is out and the wind is still,

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

But if you so much as dare to speak,

A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,

A wind comes off a frozen peak,

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

Robert Frost


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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld



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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

Next post: Spring 2023 Act 2











































2023: Honeysuckle & Roses

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

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

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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


Rosa ‘Lyda Rose’ Z 5-9

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

2023: Irresistible Illicium

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Spring is just a shiver away!