Monday, December 03, 2007

Been gone for a while....

Hello all! It's been quite a while since I published a post. Computer problems, network crashes, work, and travel have trumped www communications. The arrival of winter has brought me indoors and back to all of you! Yesterday (Sunday night) we started to get our first snow. I had just started a retaining wall in my side yard on Saturday. Work in my yard is always the last of the year, of course, and since I am supposed to be retired from professional landscaping I thought that I could sneak this work in earlier. No chance. But the hillside is graded and the wall partially built - this project can wait until next spring to finish.

Here are pictures of the Sunday snow and the Monday thaw! Tonight we are expecting snow again. This is typical winter weather here where we are near the warm ocean and bay water and on the edge of a planting zone (zone 6 and zone 7).

Monday, October 15, 2007

October Bloom Day

It's 10 mins. to 12 PM on 10/15/07 and I am trying for the fourth time to post my Bloom Day pictures for October. Blogger seems to be in meltdown presumably from all the other garden bloggers that are trying to post tonight. They tell me repeatedly that they are "aware of the problem" and are hopefully trying to fix it. Let's see as I try again to download my pictures for you all.


I have a few blooms left on my Graham Thomas rose - my favorite. The carpet roses along my walk are still blooming as well. The second picture is of a seasonal display of autumn flowers. While they are technically in bloom in my garden, I take no credit for their horticultural success. I will take credit for the blooming delphinium - blooming finally. I have coddled this plant, purchased new this spring, and fully expect it to die this winter. (sigh). I love them but truely know that they will never, ever, bloom like the delphiniums I photographed in England this past June. (see a previous post for pics.
It's 11:57 PM so I will post NOW.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


i have found what you are like

    i have found what you are like
    the rain

    (Who feathers frightened fields
    with the superior dust-of-sleep. wields

    easily the pale club of the wind
    and swirled justly souls of flower strike

    the air in utterable coolness

    deeds of gren thrilling light
    with thinned
    newfragile yellows

    --in the woods
    And the coolness of your smile is
    stirringofbirds between my arms;but
    i should rather than anything
    have(almost when hugeness will shut
    your kiss
    e.e. cummings

The earth sighs, here, today, and then laughs with relief. I laugh with relief too - the weight of stewardship nearly broke my heart as I watched our woods weep and wilt in drought.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fall, finally!

Yesterday, we closed up our house at the beach (a chore that is loaded with myths and rituals) and turned our focus to our home in Huntington. Our Long Island fall weather is mimicing a beautiful September with temps in the 80's and dry winds. But in fact, we are suffering through a damaging drought that hopefully will end tonight. In my yard, the native bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) is starting to turn. Unfortunately the leaves are dropping before the plant has a chance to turn completely yellow. That's the result of the drought. In my herb garden, a clematis sends out a late bloom among the basil and rosemary. I have been trying to get this clematis to travel up my trellis for three years now. It seems content to send out a bloom now and then where it is. I am just happy it is alive. I do not have great luck with clematis.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Salvias in Fall Bloom

I was unable to resist these salvias last spring. Seduced by the names and descriptions alone, I dreamed of new (to me) fall color in my garden. I was not disappointed. The first salvia, Salvia madrensis, is also called the forsythia sage. It hails from the Sierra Madre region of Mexico, preferring elevations of 4-5,000 ft. Optimally it grows taller than 10ft and forms lovely large clumps. Mine is about 7ft. and has only three stalks. It is striking non the less.
The second salvia I belive is a cultivar of Salvia leucantha, perhaps 'Santa Barbara'. It's native to Central America and Mexico. My specimen is approximately a 3 X 3' subshrub, quite tidy and contained. The third I know only as Salvia 'Purple Majesty'. Tall and rambling, it is supported by my late asters. Lastly is a Salvia involucrata cultivar 'Mulberry Jam'. It is a light and airy plant that needs support. It has been blooming since the beginning of September. It's a true winner. (see for more information)

Jane Loudon, in her 1854 American edition of Gardening for Ladies writes: "No one who has only seen the common Sage growing in a kitchen-garden could imagine the splendidly flowering plants which belong to the genus Salvia. ... They differ in their habits as much as in their flowers; some are shrubby, some perennial, some biennial, and some annual; and some are so tender as to require a stove; while others must be kept in a frame or greenhouse, and the greater part are quite hardy in the open air. All kinds should be grown in a light rich soil; and they are progagated by cuttings, division of the root, or seeds, which last nearly all the species ripen in great abundance." Thank you Jane, as always. I'll be collecting seeds soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Book Club Aug.-Sept., 2007

Like the garden bloggers' bloom day, I have been following and reading the selected books on the garden blogger's book club started by Carol over at for several months now. I haven't contributed a review yet, but this month I'm on time. I have carefully avoided reading the other reviews so as not to influence my opinion.

A Hoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber, 2004:
When Carol suggested a gardening mystery for the August/September selection of the Garden Bloggers' Book Club I was thrilled. I was beginning a long vacation at the beach and a mystery was perfect escapist reading. I ordered two selections by Heather Webber, A Hoe Lot of Trouble, and Digging Up Trouble. I also ordered two additional mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert: Bleeding Hearts and Thyme of Death. I read them all. Webber's books were terrible!
They were formulaic, predictable, and very light on horticultural information. Here's the formula: a strong woman with an over developed and unbelievable sense of curiosity finds herself unexpectedly in the middle of a murder case. She has either been dumped for another woman and thus has a chip on her shoulder or has just started a relationship with another strong man (pick a cop for either). Her children, family members,or friends generally get involved and have to be rescued. Everyone survives and the murderer is usually someone you do not care for in the first place. The protagonist's career changes from author to author. Caterer - Diane Mott Davidson, English Professor and musician - Virginia Swift, Bounty Hunter - Janet Evonovich, Ex lawyer turned Herbal Shop Keeper - Susan Wittig Albert, Failed law student turned Florist - Kate Collins just to name a few. Some like Davidson, Swift, Evonovich are successful primarily because they are witty and down right hysterical at times. Others like Webber and Collins should find another profession. Webber's heroine is a landscape designer whose company specializes in "surprise garden makeovers". She hires an interesting group of ex offenders and has a parole officer as a best friend. Her husband the cop has left her for his squad partner and his son is a teenager on the edge. Forget the murder situation - I get them mixed up between her two books - they are not compelling. Webber has the ingredients of a good yarn but she falls short on the delivery. Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles series is better written and includes more horticultural information. I would place her in the middle of the pack. Webber and A Hoe Lot of Trouble - don't bother reading. There are better authors and yarns in the genre. I may have had beach brain and just wanted a beach read for vacation but A Hoe Lot of Trouble and Digging Up Trouble came up very shallow.
Bloom Day, September 15, 2007
I love to look at the garden bloggers' picture on "Bloom Day" (generally the 15th of the month). I have vowed to be aware of dates and get my pictures posted in time - I haven't made it yet but this late entry is a close as I have gotten to date. My garden had run on autopilot for much of August and September while I was on Fire Island. I did manage a good weeding by the 15th and began to top dress the beds with compost. I had started a new shade garden in the spring and added this barrel to a spot that has yet to be planted.

Note: the pics are out of order - just another newby glitch!

I've also got a bumper crop of tall marigolds crowding out various herbs. They really did well in this raised bed. By the front walk my sedum is beginning to bloom and that means that the bees will be back. I love sedum Autumn Joy and struggle with its attraction to bees as I am very allergic to their stings! Finally, for this Bloom Day I included a pot of begonias with one new bloom. I brought this pot indoors last winter and plan to do so again. I find the variety and patterns of leave continually facinating and somewhat humorous.

That's some of what was blooming on the 15th. Today, my asters and salvias have started blooming and the roses are gearing up for a final show but that's for another blog.

Speaking of blogs, bees, and bloom days, check out Carol's bee story on maydreamsgardens on - horrific! I've been there Carol!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

As August sails to a close, I left Fire Island, NY yesterday to visit our winter home in Huntington. Mail needed to be collected. Plants and planters needed water and some TLC - assurances that I would be back soon. The abundance of summer blooms are past but a few continue - phlox, re blooming platycodons, roses, late hydrangeas, to name a few. My tall marigolds are hitting their stride and the fall blooming salvias (annuals) are coming into their own. Yesterday, I arrived home too late to see this night blooming water lily in full display. But today, at dawn I caught its full glory. This beauty is our only lily as our pond is too small for all but a few water plants. We have, on average, about 20 goldfish that love the lily's cover - it protects them from poaching blue herons and feral cats!

In addition to the lily, another part of the garden is looking particularly lush. Elephant ears, cannas, hibiscus (not in bloom at the moment) and blue lobelia thrive in a chronically wet spot. Victorian styled gardens containing these dominant plants were quite out of favor during the early twentieth century. That's is not my view today. I marvel at the ability these plants have to grow so quickly and at their usefulness in truly tough garden locations. They will always have a place in my garden. Besides, they multiply like crazy!

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's Fall
t may still be August but fall has announced its presence today. We are in the last week of our summer retreat on Fire Island, New York. It's 68 degrees F. with a strong dry wind from the East. We still have some late season blueberries - enough for another batch of muffins or two, but the big buzz around here concerns the ripening of beach plums (Prunus maritima). Beach plum jelly is a major love of the residents of this sand spit. The color of beach plums is intoxicating, ranging from purple to blue to reds, pinks, and green. The jelly is a clear claret color with a subtle taste. This week I will go in search of beach plums to take home for processing into jelly. Ummm. Another way to treat beach plums is to make a chunky freezer sauce for ice cream. Christmas pies with ice cream and beach plum sauce - Wow! I have not made sauce for years. Maybe its time.

Fall is also the time for white tail deer bucks to strut their stuff. We live amongst the deer daily (not the other way around) and they are usually benign. But this weekend I was stopped on my walk by an imposing buck with a well formed rack who had no intention of moving out of the way. I don't recall ever having to question my safety around deer before. There are way too many here and in the fall, they seem to be asserting their dominance.

What has this to do with gardening and landscape history - everything! On Fire Island they have reduced the number of species of native plants dramatically. Ornamental gardening requires fencing or very judicious selection. Grey herbs, cleome, ornamental grasses, caryopteris, vitex, some foxglove, marigolds, and the dreaded bamboo are among the deer reject options. New blueberries and beach plums must be caged until they are tall enough to withstand deer poaching or old enough to have acquired enough local soil acidity.

So fall is blowing in and as I pick beach plums this week I will reflect on the balance of nature and what happens when that balance is disturbed as it is here with deer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Here are more pictures from Lacock Abbey. Wonderous differences in texture! June is a perfect month for flowers.

My son is home, visiting. He has kindly taken me under his wing and has begun to explain the mysteries of blogging. I hope that my blog will begin to improve!. On the last post I commented on Lacock Abbey and its newly replanted border in a walled garden. These pictures represent tutorials on resizing photos into web friendly formats. The Lacock delphiniums came in multiple shades of dazzeling blue and were strongly swaying in the rainy breeze like welcoming ladies at a floral party. You may recognize the Abbey from the first Harry Potter movie. The Abbey survived Henry VIII's distruction by having been bought by one of Henry's supporters (long story there - another time perhaps). He bought the whole town while he was at it. The town and Abbey had remained in the same family until the mid twentieth century - amazing! I urge you to put Lacock on your must see list. By the way, the house built over the Abbey is a Jacobean fantasy - the garden around the house is English Arts and Crafts. Here's a link to some additional photos..

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I have been thinking recently about the floods in Tewksbury and the Glouchester area. I visited that region of England in June, traveling with my daughter Sarah. We were combining our love of gardens with, in my case, a love of English garden history, and in Sarah's case, her intense interest in early English abbeys and early monastic life. It rained during most of our trip and I guess in never stopped. We are heartbroken when we consider the damage both to the land and its people. The English are such wonderful stewards of their land and history. I know it will recover.
In the next several Blogs I will include some pictures from our trip. But first I will start with Lacock Abbey because it is both an historic garden from several eras and an abbey. (Some of you may recognize the Abbey from the early Harry Potter movies.) The walled garden was used in WWII as a victory garden for the town. It is in the early stages of becoming a demostration garden. I wish I could grow such beautiful delphiniums.

I am having trouble loading images. I will try again later.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Third post today. This is a strange challenge - blogging. My blog seems to be up and running except I cannot see changes in edit format. So I continue to test and consequently bore my readers. I'll add a picture to add a bit of interest. No go. I was trying for a Repton Red Book before and after shot. We will have to wait for a discussion of Repton's landscape improvement until I have improved my skill in this medium.
I am still experimenting with this blog. I cannot seem to call up my editied template (which has my lst post on it) or edit my post to correct it. I posted the wrong picture, (it's not a St. Porchaire ware ewer but it is one of the pieces attributed Palissy's workshop.) Well I will keep trying. I wonder where this post will end up.

Again, hello! I am new to blogging and am beginning to figure this world out. For example, I have tried to change the layout and edit out my spelling errors in my description. The edit function does not seem to work (or more likely, I do not know how to work the edit function.)

The purpose of this post is to figure out the "insert picture" option. Let's try.

O. K., I got a message that there were errors in the upload. I suppose the computer didn't like my picture so I will try another:

This time it worked. You should be seeing an example of a ewer attributed to Palissy! What does this have to do with garden history? Glad you asked! The issues of the tension between Art and Nature will probably take center stage in this blog. Stay tuned. For now, I am going to move the learning process on to publishing my first post. (I still have yet to get the edit function to work.)