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2024: Time-Tested Beauties 2

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

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

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

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld –2024

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld –2024

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld –2024

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

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

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

copyright – Lois Sheinfeld –2024

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

2024:Time-Tested Beauties

“If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo.” C.S. Lewis.

If you are a new gardener, perhaps you shouldn’t start by lusting after rare, exotic, needy — often strange looking — plants that will faint onto the swooning couch if you look at them the wrong way. Rather, first build your confidence — and your garden — with easy-care, robust, resplendent plants that will work for you, not the other way around.

With the chaos and uncertainty of climate change, even seasoned gardeners have a new appreciation for plants you can safely count on. In the next few posts I will focus on a number of these special, time-tested beauties that have flourished for decades in my organic garden, starting with two of my favorite Elepidote Rhododendrons:

Rhododendron ‘Calsap’ (Z 4-7)

It isn’t easy to choose two favorite Rhododendrons — I have so many. Calsap was chosen because — apart from its unfortunate name — it has it all: winter hardiness, vigor, handsome stately form, healthy evergreen foliage, and masses of gorgeous flowers in May. Bees are also fans. Photos below.

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron makinoi (Z 5-7)

This garden jewel is all about foliage. R. makinoi has healthy, elegant, evergreen, long and narrow leaves, which circle the stems like ribs of an umbrella. And its new growth is covered with showy white tomentum — yes, you can have razzle-dazzle with hardy, easy-care plants. The shrub blooms in May and has an attractive, dense, mounded form. Photos below.

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

All you need to know about Rhododendron care is covered by the late Hank Schannen, accomplished Rhododendron breeder and founder of Rare Find Nursery, in his Criteria For Success With Rhododendrons:

January 2024: Looking Forward

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy, New Year!

Sadly, not so happy or healthy for my daffodils: Unseasonable warming and seesawing temperatures due to climate change caused the Spring-flowering bulbs to emerge in December 2023, and they will surely be zapped. Mother Nature has moved to Crazyville, a serious, ongoing environmental problem.

Here are a few other things to think about in 2024:

In a previous post I wrote about entomologists changing the common name of Lymantria dispar from gypsy moth to spongy moth because the word gypsy was an ethnic slur, offensive to the Romani people. The issue of name change is once again front and center. But now it’s all about biological name change, a different kettle of fish with a different set of rules.

Unlike common name change, biological name change has, as a rule, required evidence of a link to new scientific discovery. Scientists and others are now proposing that offensive biological names commemorating racists or other monstrous humans should be erased without requiring that link. They argue that taxonomy should be socially responsible and that homage should not be paid to tradition over ethics. Those in opposition assert, inter alia, that the change would undermine stability in scientific naming, resulting in widespread confusion.

A prime target of those proposing change is the Hitler beetle, Anophthalmus hitleri, a blind cave dweller predator that will eat anything smaller and weaker. Because of these features, it has been suggested that the name was meant to mock Hitler not to praise him, following the example set by Carl Linnaeus, an eighteenth century botanist.

Linnaeus created The Binomial System of Nomenclature, a singularly unique procedure of classification—the basis of our current system—which was and still is widely celebrated for “bringing order to nature’s blooming, buzzing confusion.” Linnaeus often used his position as namer-in-chief to belittle those he didn’t like, once “rewarding” a critic by naming a smelly weed after him.

Not the case with the Hitler bug: Hitler was very fond of beetles; the beetle was named by a Hitler fan who declared in writing, “Given to Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler as an expression of my admiration” and Adolf sent him a thank-you note. Photos below of Hitler and his namesake beetle.

I was surprised to discover that a modern-day fan of Adolf Hitler also has a namesake, a micromoth, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi. Photos of the two below.

The issue of biological name change has not been resolved.

Common name change continues: The American Ornithological Society recently announced that “in an effort to address past wrongs” it will change the English common names of birds named after people.

We can help birds—regardless of their names— by creating a welcoming habitat filled with plants that provide food and shelter. In my garden, birds love the luscious red berries produced by Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ and by our native Winterberry Holly, Ilex verticillata. Photos below of Mariesii’s flowers and red berries and photos of the Winterberry Holly plant and berries.

copyright 2014 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, I am thrilled to see my oak trees cloaked with lichen. Photo below.

copyright 2024 – Lois Sheinfeld

Lichen takes its life-supporting nutrients from the air and will not grow in areas with polluted, poor air quality. I attribute our clean air to beautiful, hard-working trees that breathe in toxins and exude oxygen. Trees also provide food and shelter for wildlife, and they provide shade—especially important in light of global warming.

Embrace your trees and plant more!

2023: Successes and Failures

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

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

2023 GARDEN FAILURES

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

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

 

2023 GARDEN SUCCESSES

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

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

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

Provide organically rich, well-drained soil.

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

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2023 — Lois Sheinfeld

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

2023: BARBIE Pink

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

Scene from the Barbie Film

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

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

Cornus Kousa ‘Scarlet Fire’ (Z 5-8)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

Rosa ‘Earth Angel’ ( Z 5-10)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

Summer 2023: Resplendent Plants

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

printed with permission JC Raulston Arboretum, NCSU

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

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

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

June 2023 Superstar: Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)

“Rarely, if ever before, have the Arboretum Laurels (Kalmia latifolia) been as full of flower buds as they are now. . . .The flowering of the Laurels is the last of the great Arboretum flower shows of the year, and none of those which precede it are more beautiful, for the Mountain Laurel is in the judgment of many flower-lovers the most beautiful of all North American shrubs or small trees.” Charles Sprague Sargent, Director of the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University. June 1916.

“107 years later, I am watching the best mountain laurel bloom in my thirteen springs here.” William Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University. June, 2023.

I join Director Sargent’s celebration of our native shrubs and agree with Director Friedman that 2023 has been an especially splendid flowering  year – one of the best floral displays in the 30 years Mountain Laurels have graced my Southampton, N.Y. garden. Apart from the standard pink and white flowering plants that were here when we bought the property, I have added a number of Richard Jaynes colorful hybrid cultivars. Photos below. (Jaynes is the foremost Mountain Laurel breeder and the founder of Broken Arrow Nursery in Conn.)

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

Note: While Jaynes hybrids have beautiful flowers, many of the early cultivars are vulnerable to foliage disease. My favorite shrub, ‘Carol,’  is the exception: In addition to showy bloom, it possesses healthy, glossy, dark-green leaves. (See the first photo above.) Recent Richard Jaynes introductions may have improved disease-resistance.

Mountain Laurels thrive in well-drained, organically rich, acid soil, in shade. Gardeners report that they also do well in sun. The shrubs bloom on new growth. For maximum flowering, remove faded flowers that retard foliage growth and the formation of new buds. Without gardener intervention, wild laurels only bloom every other year.

Spring 2023: Highest Garden Merit Plants

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

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

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

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

 

Salvia nemorosa’ Pink Profusion’ Z 3-8

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

Torenia ‘Purple Moon’ (Wishbone Flower)

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright – 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

Spring 2023 Act 1: Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

You know how it is with an April day

When the sun is out and the wind is still,

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

But if you so much as dare to speak,

A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,

A wind comes off a frozen peak,

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

Robert Frost

 

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

 

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2023: Honeysuckle & Roses

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

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

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

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

 

Rosa ‘Lyda Rose’ Z 5-9

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2023 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

2023: Irresistible Illicium

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Spring is just a shiver away!

2022: Assess, Adjust, Savor: Part 1

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

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

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

Osmanthus x fortunei ‘UNC’ Z 7-10

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ Z 7-10

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

Calycanthus x ‘Aphrodite’ Z 5-9

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

 

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

WISHING YOU ALL A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY!

Summer 2022: A Rose & A Hydrangea

Rosa ‘Jasmina’ Z 5-9

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

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

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

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

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

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2022 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

News Alert: Naming Names

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

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

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

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

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

May 2022: A Magnolia & A Camellia

I love Bumblebees.

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

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

Magnolia denudata ‘Yellow River’ Z 4-9

copyright 2022 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

Camellia japonica ‘Korean Fire’ Z 6-9

                                                                                                                                                                      copyright 2022  Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

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

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 www.rarefindnursery.com. The email address is support@rarefindnursery.com.

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!

Oct./Nov. 2021: Autumn Review

The magical days of Fall are here.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

Bric-a-Brac:

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

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

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

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

2021: Late-Summer Notables

Famed British gardener/author Christopher Lloyd said of gardening: “Look after late summer and the rest of the year will look after itself.” Here in the U.S., this summer’s oppressive heat and humidity — not to mention a hurricane or two — made the “looking after” quite a challenge. Still, the following plants met the challenge and then some:

Coleus breeders have outdone themselves, producing scores of worthy, vibrant, multi-colored annuals. My Coleus plants, pictured below, flourish in a large north-facing container in shade. I worried when they fell over, pounded down by recent heavy rain.  But they just picked themselves up with no help from me and will carry on into Fall.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Another late-summer standout annual is the Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas). Few plants can match its vigorous growth and its versatility.  I bought one four-inch pot in May and planted it in a container with a rose. In the blink of an eye, it grew into the flamboyant, problem-free-spiller pictured below. It loves heat and will thrive in sun or shade until frost.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

If you plant silver-leaf Pulmonarias, you will delight both in the enchanting early spring flowers and, thereafter, in the elegant simplicity of the foliage pictured below. It’s a win-win perennial. My plants are grown in moist, well-drained, organically-rich, acidic soil in shade. I mix in sharp-edged grit to the planting soil to repel voles.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Many plants produce unique seed heads that add interest and beauty to the late-summer garden. Consider the showy seed heads of several Rhododendrons, which, in time, age to woody-like ornaments—attractive enough to pluck for decorative home display. A happy bonus! Photos below.

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2021 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Finally, I agree with one of my favorite garden writers, the American journalist/author Celestine Sibley, who wisely said of gardening: “The doing is the thing. And if by some happy chance you should have a little success, ah, the satisfaction that is!”

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.

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.

2020 Autumn Garden All-Stars

The Earth has been spinning dangerously off its axis.

For years we have suffered one crisis after another fed by nonstop incompetence, corruption, and lies. Environmental protections have been eviscerated. It continues even as I write this. But the people have spoken and on January 20, 2021 we will have the opportunity to set this Republic on a true and just course.

Much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

In the garden, sadly the Oaks never displayed Fall color — their foliage fast turned from green to brown. But the following Autumn-All-Stars didn’t disappoint:

Nyssa sylvatica (Sour Gum, Black Gum) Z 4-9

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld


copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

Often called one of our most beautiful native trees, Nyssa is especially admired for its reliable, vibrant Fall color. It is disease-resistant and will grow in sun or shade in well-drained, moist, acidic soil.

Because of its long taproot, it is difficult to move. When I had to transplant one of my established trees, it lost a few feet from the top and it took about three years to fully recover. While it is quite happy now in its new position, you can avoid the problem by carefully choosing a planting site with an eye to the future.

Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ (Burning Bush) Z 5-8

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

This disease-resistant Asian shrub isn’t fussy about soil pH but does prefer well-drained soil with regular water. It will prosper in sun or shade but its Fall color will be affected: In sun the foliage will turn fiery red; in shade, it’s more likely to turn pink, as in the photos above. E. alatus can attain a height of 15-20 feet. My cultivar ‘Compactus’ is about 11 feet—smaller but not really compact. (Since I planted it — over twenty-five years ago — dwarf cultivars have become available.)

In addition to being easy-care, the shrub produces showy red-orange Fall fruit beloved by birds, resulting in volunteer seedlings popping up in the landscape. I welcome volunteers, but others do not and have called for the plants to be banned from commerce. Angry birds have drafted a petition in opposition.

Finally, consider these three fabulous Japanese Maples clad in flaming autumnal attire:

Acer palmatum ‘Mikawa yatsubusa’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

Acer palmatum ‘Iijima sunago’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

Acer palmatum ‘Aoyagi/Ukon’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

In my organic garden they all flourish in rich, moist, well-drained, acidic soil, in shade.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Be well. Stay safe.

Autumn 2020 Playing Mozart: Epigaea repens

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

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

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

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

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

‘God be praised’ the Pilgrim said,

Who saw the blossoms peer

Above the brown leaves, dry and dead,

‘Behold our Mayflower here!’

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

Be well, stay safe. And vote!!!

2020 Autumn Joy: Disanthus & Viburnum

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden communing with nature. I find that closely observing and working with plants, while dreaming and scheming about future plans for the landscape, is calming and restorative. Especially so in Autumn when the leaves turn color. It’s a magical time. The native Dogwoods are usually the first to capture my attention. Photo below.

dogwood in Fall

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

 

But this September I was distracted when the circus came to town! My goodness, Mother Nature has a sense of humor. Meet the uncommon, whimsical clown, Saddleback Caterpillar. Photo below.

caterpillar

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

Yeah, yeah, I know it is eating my rhododendron…….yet, it makes me smile. So do two uncommon, deciduous ornamental shrubs that enrich my Autumn landscape. Consider:

 

Disanthus cercidifolius Z 5-8

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

This 6-10 foot Asian native shrub has elegant blue-green heart-shaped leaves in Spring and Summer. In Autumn it explodes into spectacular color. Photos above. Disanthus is disease-resistant — disease-free for me — and thrives in well-drained, acidic, organically rich soil in shade. It dislikes drought. Protect from strong wind.

I was filled with trepidation when I had to move the established plant to another area in the garden. I needn’t have worried. It didn’t drop a leaf. A most reasonable, accommodating plant.

 

Viburnum setigerum (Tea Viburnum) Z 5-7

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

Tea Viburnum is a native of China where monks used the leaves to make medicinal tea — which explains its common name. The shrub can grow 8-12 feet and has attractive dark green foliage which turns red in Fall. But it is the abundant, showy clusters of fat, cherry-red berries that make this a standout plant in the Autumn garden. Photo above. Grow in sun or shade, in rich, well-drained, acid, moist soil. Disease-free for me. (Note: It is said that Viburnums are very social — they like to party. So, to ensure heavy fruit display I grow it with other Viburnums.)

Be well. Stay safe.

2020 Summer Fragrance: Roses, Roses, Roses

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

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

Noakes: Why, the hermit.

Lady Croom: Where is he?

Noakes: Madam?

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

Noakes: Indeed, madam—

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

Noakes: I have no hermits, my lady.

Lady Croom: Not one? I am speechless.

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

Lady Croom: Advertise?

Noakes: In the newspapers.

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

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

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

 

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

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

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

All of us.

 

copyright 2020 – Jessica Amsterdam

Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!

Spring 2020: Rhododendron Elepidotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

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

 

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

 

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

copyright 2020 — Jessica Amsterdam

copyright 2020 — Jessica Amsterdam

copyright 2020 — Ashley Cox

copyright 2020 — Ashley Cox

 

Be well. Stay safe.

Spring 2020: Mezitt Rhododendron Part 2

Part 2

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

Rhododendron ‘Mrs. J.A. Withington 111’

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron ‘Lilac Crest’

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

Rhododendron ‘Landmark’

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

 

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

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

12 Criteria For Success With Rhododendron

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

Be well. Stay safe.

Spring 2020: Mezitt Rhododendrons Part 1

In 1899 a musical, Floradora, opened in London and was a smash hit. After a long run in England, the show crossed the pond and opened in New York to equal acclaim. The show’s fame was largely due to its Floradora Girls, a chorus of women — clad in pink, carrying frilly parasols — who captivated audiences.

In 2020, in my Spring garden, we treasure the chorus performance of Mezitt Rhododendron lepidotes — a captivating, flowering extravaganza in pink and purple:

Part 1

Rhododendron ‘PJM’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

The Mezitt-Weston Nurseries’ breeding program was launched with the introduction of the rightly popular Rhododendron ‘PJM’, named for Weston’s founder, Peter J. Mezitt. In April, glowing lavender-pink blossoms — favored by bees — blanket the shrub, and in Autumn\Winter the evergreen, small-leafed foliage turns a deep mahogany-black.

PJM is very cold-hardy, disease and pest-resistant, and thrives in both sun and shade. (Note: All of the Rhododendrons featured here share these attributes.)

 

Rhododendron ‘Weston’s Pink Diamond’

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

This luminous, semi-evergreen beauty starred in the 1983 sixtieth anniversary celebration of Weston Nurseries. Graced in April with luxuriant, ruffled, double silvery-pink flowers, and then in Autumn with resplendent foliage in shades of red, orange and gold, R. ‘Weston’s Pink Diamond’ has been celebrated in my garden for twenty-five years.

 

Rhododendron ‘Weston’s Aglo’

As Pink Diamond’s flowers fade in May, its garden side-kick, R.’Weston’s Aglo’, comes into its own with abundant clusters of radiant pink flowers with vibrant red flares. Bees love the flowers as much as I do. In the Fall, the glossy evergreen foliage turns a rich bronze-green. R ‘Weston’s Aglo’ has flourished in my organic garden for more than two decades. (The shrub is a sibling of the popular R.’Olga Mezitt’—Aglo is Olga spelled backwards.)

A copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

Stay Tuned: Part 2 Next Post.

Be well. Stay safe.

2020 Spring Fragrance: Pieris, Skimmia, Magnolia

Insects Rule!

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

An interesting conundrum.

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

Pieris x ‘Spring Snow’ Z 5-7

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

 

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

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

 

Magnolia ‘Pegasus’ Z 5-8

 

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 – Lois Sheinfeld

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

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

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

Be well. Stay safe.