Monday, May 22, 2017


It's our wedding anniversary today. The doublefile viburnum marks the occasion every year by blooming perfectly and profusely and prettily, without fail.

It suffered in last summer's drought, but came back this spring as if nothing happened. Over the years harsh winters or heavy ice loads have done their damage, but the next year this doublefile viburnum blooms beautifully. It carries on, despite everything, and flowers reliably at the same time each spring.

There's a metaphor in there for how marriages work or something, but without belaboring the obvious, we are going out to enjoy a nice dinner and will come home to see this pretty shrub flowering as it always does to celebrate our anniversary.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Top of the Drive

I am pleased to see this spot at the top of the driveway finally come together. For the first time since I "designed" (a loose term) this view, it looks just right.

As you come up the driveway, you are greeted by a stately paperbark maple, and you see the little stone wall I built to mark where the parking area pavers edge the gravel garden. To the right is the walkway to the back yard, anchored by that asymmetrical blue spruce. It was supposed to be a dwarf mounded conifer, but it isn't. I actually pruned off about a quarter this spring to get this size and shape. I like it now.

To the left is a metal arbor and gate leading into the gravel seating area. I planted a male kiwi vine to cover it, and it's taken a while to start arching over the arbor. Finally, it's doing that. I'm still waiting for the pink coloration on the tips of the leaves. That takes a few years to show. But I do like this view now.

Fragrant creeping thyme has grown around the stepping stone at the entrance and is spreading into the gravel. And those are big, glossy, full inkberry hollies bordering the gravel area. They provide dense screening and a sense of privacy from the rest of the yard as you enter.

What I'm really pleased about at the top of the driveway is that the creeping phlox 'Fort Hill' has finally shown up. I had a hard time over the past three years getting it to take. I planted a line of them to drape over the wall and they disappeared. I bought more and replanted, and they still did nothing for a couple years.

This spring they are wonderful. They're finally colorful and spreading all along the wall. They aren't draping over the edge of the stones yet, but they promise to.

What you don't see in this area is the smokebush, which is at the top of the wall in the middle. It's still a cut-back stump right now, allowing the low creeping phlox and daffodils to take the stage. Later in summer there will be a large shrubby smokebush there, but by then the daffodils and the phlox will have gone by.

A few years ago I stuck a broken stem of sedum into the crack between some stones in the wall, and now it spills out abundantly, growing, apparently, on just grains of sand in the wall.

It has taken a while, and I got discouraged about ever having a nice spring view at the top of the drive, but now, finally, it looks great.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Guest Post

Today, something unusual for this blog -- a guest post written by my sister Pam:

A gardener I am not. Nor am I a blogger, but my sister, the author of this blog, has graciously allowed me to do a guest post.  

Many years ago, after an extensive addition to our kitchen, we realized we could see directly into our neighbors' family room. So, my sister, the gardener, to the rescue with a suggestion for a plant screen. Her recommendation was a fringe tree. And so it was planted, spindly little specimen that it was. It was just starting to grow taller and fill out when I, as a new widow, moved to a condo. How I lamented leaving my little tree behind. Well, nothing to do but go buy another. 

Last summer, with my sister's guidance, I again purchased what seemed to me just a brown stick. I had little hope that this half dead stick would thrive. 

Here it is this Spring and look at how it is doing. I am so thrilled. 
Fringetree - Chionanthus virginicus

Additionally, she planted several landscape plants around my newly installed patio. This shade loving azalea (is that an oxymoron?) has done very well, and I love the pretty pink blossoms. 
A pink blooming shade loving azalea 

She was so excited to plant this Pigsqueak mostly  because she just loved the name. But it has  thrived and even produced these pretty pink flowers. I seem to have a pink theme going on here.
Bergenia cordifolia - Pigsqueak

One would think watching this sister work her magic on my site, I would be well versed in producing a show stopper patio landscape. Hah!! My only contribution to beautify my space was a healthy-when-I-bought-it hydrangea. It died.
Site of a dead plant

So while I sit on the sidelines watching her do her magic, I get to reap the rewards of a talented gardener who seems to enjoy having another canvas on which to create.

Oh...I do make a mean quilt! 

A different form of garden magic - a garden of colors and shapes

--- with thanks to Pam for this post!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Soaked, Then Sunny

Three and a half inches of rain on Friday -- a complete soaking. Then Saturday was sunny and breezy. A red wine seemed right.

The blackhaw viburnums are in bloom now, and I can never capture their subtle flowers. They blend into the green background. They are flat, and creamy white, not bright.

But they are showy in their own way. I wish I could get the camera to highlight the graceful, quiet prettiness of this little tree.

Is it unreasonable that this line of five 'Tide Hill' boxwoods delights me so? I don't know why, but I love it. A small fothergilla 'Mt. Airy' blooms behind the boxwoods. It has white pipe cleaner brushes that stand up. They smell like honey if you get close.

For years I have had ever-increasing patches of blue forget-me-nots each spring, but I lost almost all of them in last summer's drought. There are only two clumps left under the viburnum tree in a wet part of this garden.

I used to have a big beautiful stretch of them, and even did the "plants spilling out of a container" thing one year. They were seeding around in lots of places in different gardens.

But except for the two little clumps remaining, none of the rest of all the shallow rooted forget-me-nots came back. I really do miss the river of sky blue sunniness streaming alongside the dry creekbed.

With a day of soaking rain followed by a day of sun, the forget-me-nots would have been spectacular.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Forensic Gardening

Remember earlier this spring I showed the American holly that had lost almost all its bark -- I thought the cause was sunscald from our hot February followed by a brief cold snap this winter.

Post: My Ilex opaca won't survive

But even as I came up with that theory it didn't seem right. It just wasn't that cold for that long after the warm spell in February.

Chris from Bartlett was here today and he looked at it and said "this tree lost its bark the winter before -- in 2015-2016 when we had such a harsh season, with subzero temperatures for weeks on end."

The injury occurred because Ilex opaca, at least when first transplanted, is cold susceptible in zone 5. And that winter two years ago was brutal.

There are mature, beautiful Ilex opaca trees in Connecticut -- they do grow well here although it's the northern end of their range. But they have to experience several mild winters when young in order to go on to live happily when older. Then they can take a brutally cold winter once fully established. But not the first years after transplant.

The brown edge is scar tissue that
grew last summer to seal the wound
The way Chris knew it was damage from a prior season is that the little strip of remaining bark had formed a tight callus to seal the wound. That could not have occurred yet this spring, it's way too early for any bark growth.

That scar tissue grew around the edges last summer, so the damage was there from the winter before that. The loose, dead bark had stayed wrapped around the tree last year so I never noticed it had come unattached. Now, this season, it disintegrated and fell off, exposing how extensive the dead area is.

Forensic garden analysis -- it's one of the real fascinations of gardening. I now have a cause for the holly's impending death, and a timeline reconstruction of how it happened. But I still don't know why it had to happen.

Why did my American holly have to spend one of its first young years after transplant in winter's iciest clutches? Why couldn't its first winters here have all been mild ones, like this past winter?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I'm Impressed

Today the realtor's photographer came back to re-take pictures of our yard for the MLS listing. That impressed me.

I had been uneasy about the gloom and drizzle on Monday when he first shot the outside, and today was sunnier, much better for garden photographs. So the pictures were re-done with a bit of mixed clouds and sunshine and brighter light.

The pink dogwood in front had opened its blooms a bit more since Monday, although it's still not in full brilliant flower yet.

And although the day wasn't quite as bluebird sunny as when I took this picture earlier in the spring, solar panels do look much more efficient against a blue sky, don't they?

I was impressed that the photographer came back and took pictures on a better day.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Do you see the problem with this early spring shot? I mean beside the lousy exposure.

The creeping phlox 'Fort Hill' is making a pink carpet over the top of the wall. That's nice. The stand of cheery daffodils is just going by. The yard is greening up, that's good. There is a big, lush green sedum spilling out of the wall stones near the pot. That's cool.

But do you see what's not right here?

The heart stone fell out. Plop. The heart should be upright in the wall, but it keeps tipping out and falling on the ground.

Over the years I have tried outdoor adhesive, I tried a bit of mortar, I have propped it and stuffed it and tilted it backward and it still falls out at random and sometimes oddly significant times.

The bigger issue is the poor light for my photos on an overcast spring day. The realtor's photographer came yesterday to take photos of our home for the real estate listing. He was impressed with the yard (everyone is) and took a lot of outdoor pictures in addition to photos of the rooms and features inside, but it was drizzling and dark out.

It's still early spring, so beyond some passing daffodils and some pink phlox, there isn't much to recommend the gardens right now. A full shot of the front of the house will be set against gray skies (oh, those solar panels right on the front roof -- basking in the drizzly gloom. . .  ugh).

He reassured me it will look enticing and beautiful and people will want to pay a lot of money to buy this house, just from the online photos. He's a professional. He does this all the time. His equipment was impressive. He took a ton of shots.

But between the gloomy background and the stone heart plopped out on the pavers -- my heart, really, teetering a bit at the thought of leaving -- I am so unsure.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

First of the Season

It got warm yesterday, up in the 80s and humid and the sun came out finally.

I saw the first hummingbird of the season yesterday. I was cleaning the birdbath near the sugar feeder, and a ruby throated male came right up to me and hovered a few feet away and looked at me.

Not my picture of course, but my visitor looked
exactly like this as he hovered and greeted me.

He stayed a few moments, then dipped his wings and flew off without visiting the feeder. I swear he was saying hello, good to see you again, how was your winter, I'll come back when you finish with the birdbath . . . .

Hummingbirds are very communicative and they acknowledge humans. They look at us. They direct their attention to us in intentional ways.

It's not a stretch to imagine the greeting my ruby throated friend just gave me.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wizard of Oz

It's been cool and dampish and it's been raining a lot. I am tiring of gray gloom.

The blue beech saplings (Carpinus caroliniana) out in the meadow are budding out. That's a pleasant surprise. They dropped all their leaves last summer in the drought, and were simply dead looking sticks all summer and fall. I thought I might have lost them, but I see new leaves coming out now on all of them. They live.

I noticed that when I sit on the glider in the gravel garden on a cool day I smell a sweet perfume. It's one of the daffodils behind me, I don't know which one, but one type of narcissus is really fragrant.

There are tiny white blooms on the low Mukdenia plants along the edge of the gravel garden. They are not much to look at, but kind of cute sticking up over the barely visible emerging foliage. Like a lot of early spring small plants, they won't photograph. All my camera can see is brown mulch. They are almost invisible, last only briefly, and you really have to look to notice them.

But the stand of flowering bishops' hat (epimediums) under the dogwood is quite noticeable. They make a nodding, delicate carpet of creamy yellow flowers, very small but pretty.

The pink flowered epimediums under the maple in the back garden are also blooming. That variety of epimedium (E. rubrum) died out last summer in the drought, and all but a few clumps disappeared. Most are coming back now in this wet spring, and they will be fine, but they are patchier looking than this lovely swath under the dogwood.

I noticed, however, that the stretch of dwarf goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius) that died out last summer under the Japanese maple in the Birch Garden is not making a recovery. It's gone. No happy surprise there. One lonely tuft of ferny green foliage has emerged, but the large area that it had spread to has become a bare patch.

Purpleleaf sandcherry is putting on a delicate pink and red show in the gloom.

And there is the oddest sight in the meadow -- just over the bridge a river of gold leads to a cauldron at the base of the hill.

It's a patch of dandelions blooming where Jim mows a path in the meadow's weeds. And the cauldron is a big pot that I painted black sort of by mistake, and put out at the end of the mown path years ago after deciding it was too evil looking for the garden.

Doesn't it look like something out of the Wizard of Oz? Come this way my pretty. Cross the bridge and follow the golden path. There's something for you there in the big black cauldron . . . .