Bye Bye Violas

violasSummer temperatures have been slowing creeping upward and every now and then, it’s been absolutely hot. Yesterday, with 90° and high humidity, our poor spring violas fizzled in the afternoon heat. Those planted in the shade were fine but those leggy plants that melted in the blazing sun needed to be removed from the garden.

Cutting off the roots, I plunged the wilted blooms in a little cool water. Result: Totally revived and days of new life on the breakfast table. How divine!

Going Native

The summer of 2013 was a very bad year for the monarch butterfly. All summer long, I thought it was odd that I never saw a monarch. Reasons are not 100% clear but impacts include weather factors, loss of habitat in the US and Mexico, increased traffic on roads, and the extensive use of Roundup on genetically engineered crops. Farmers spray Roundup on these crops, killing all the weeds but not the crop.  The herbicide destroys milkweed upon which the monarch depends as a host plant.

This summer I am doing my part to go a little more native. In addition to nectar flowers, I’ve planted native milkweed. If the monarch finds my plants, I should have a monarch butterfly nursery. The plants will provide sustenance for the larvae.The blooms will provide nectar along with other nectar plants in the garden.

There are different varieties of milkweed but I planted butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) with its bright orange bloom. It should do well in hot, dry, sunny spot in the border. The hint of first blooms are appearing and I am checking my plants daily for signs of eggs.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)What can we all do to help? While we hope for more favorable weather conditions, we can all plant several milkweed plants in our yards along with the nectar plants to sustain both the larvae and the adult monarch.

Abundant Sunshine

“Abundant sunshine” is the Yahoo Weather forecast for today. It is 39° this morning but temperatures will rise to an enjoyable 51° by noon before dropping back to 30° tonight. Forecast calls a welcome warming trend with temperatures pushing into the high 60s on one day early next week. There should not be a flake of snow left on the ground then.

Although we see wonderful signs of spring around the neighborhood like my friend’s crocus below, our home lingers in the shade of tall pines.

Crocus

Crocus blooming in the neighborhood

Where there is deep shade, there is snow. Yesterday I took matters into my own hands and helped some of my newly planted treasures see daylight for the first time in many months. I had no idea what I’d find under the crush of snow and ice but I knew there had to be damage. Plants will live but, darn that snow!

This southern gardener is learning about New England winters. Next fall, the holly below will be tied or wrapped in burlap to protect the shape of the upright growth.

Beneath the snowbank (below), I was most worried about three tiny boxwood I found nearby at Rolling Green Nursery. I fell hard for these dwarf Korean boxwood (Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Tide Hill’) that were described as ‘rugged.’ The weight of snow from the roof and from driveway and sidewalk clearing was severe in this border. I tried shoveling it off early in the season, but eventually I had to give up trying to minimize or prevent damage to stems. The snow came too fast and too often.

snow

Tide Mill BoxwoodOnce I located all three shrubs, of course I found crushing damage to the top of shrubs…which is sad as these plants only grow about a foot in height.

Thankfully, when handed lemons, my philosophy is to make the sweetest lemonade on the block. Box can be propagated! I carefully removed the stems that were broken, removed the bottom leaves, dipped the stems in a hormone solution, and I’m growing them in a potting mix. Instead of three dwarf boxwood, I should end up with 8 or 9 babies in about 8 weeks. Who knows? My new landscape plan is to have a full border of these most attractive dwarf boxwood.

Tide Hill

 

Seeing Red

Do you recognize him? You’ve certainly seen him before. He was a well-known television personality for 15 years, the author of 5 books, a former science editor of Horticulture Magazine, a lecturer, and the author of numerous magazine articles. He earned his graduate degree and PhD. from Harvard in Biology.

If you haven’t guessed by now, it may be because he is out of uniform. You need to see a little red.

Roger SwainYou should recognize him without the gray vest. He’s the beloved man in the red suspenders,aka Roger Swain, who hosted the popular PBS show, The Victory Garden until 2001. We are fortunate to claim him as a fellow New Hampshire The man in the red suspenders.resident and mister gardener and I were lucky to hear him speak at a combined meeting of local garden clubs.

He spoke to the crowd in his usual chatty style, full of enthusiasm, wit and humor while passing on knowledge about what he loves and believes in: vegetable gardening.

“Gardening is the single greatest skill that humans have ever come up with because we harness photosynthesis for human sustenance. Every population on the planet is absolutely dependent on the skills of gardeners.” And he added, “A garden without something to eat in it isn’t really a garden.”

Wikimedia Commons "Groundwork for Victory. Grow More in '44" He was the third host of PBS’s Victory Garden. He told us the original war gardens began in WWI with a “Can the Kaiser” campaign to encourage vegetable gardening. The term Victory Garden grew from that. Victory Gardens returned in WWII. “Grow More in 44!” was the phrase on this WWII poster. In 1944, 44% of fresh food was grown by 20 million amateur gardeners. So much was grown that there was a food shortage after the war when gardens were turned back into lawns.

Why does he want us to garden? We need to understand that the vegetables we buy in stores today are commodified or bred for color, longevity, and shipping but not taste. The best tasting vegetables are those picked at peak of ripeness from your own garden. When asked what is the best tomato, he said, “The best tasting tomato is a ripe tomato. The one I like best is the one I just ate that was ripe.”  Today, we have other choices.  Farmers’ markets are all the rage, especially in New England. There are currently 8,100 farmers markets selling local vegetables in this country. To champion agriculture, his philosophy is to spend $10 every week at his local farmers’ market.

But his message to us was to grow it yourself whether in community gardens or at a neighbor’s or in pots or in your own garden at home. Then be a role model. Pass along the interest and skills to the next generation. A child who learns to love gardening will garden for a lifetime.

Lavender Blue

In the spring, one of the first plants I searched for in local nurseries was Liriope muscari,  a common perennial border plant in Virginia. I was happy to read that with a little care, it can be hardy in our zone 5. So I was surprised that it was not readily available locally and I saw puzzled looks on faces when I asked for it. The word liriope easily rolls off a southerner’s tongue as it is found practically in every garden… usually as a wonderful pass-along plant.

I was absolutely thrilled to finally find some at Rolling Green Nursery. A enlightened worker marched me right to their one flat in a far corner of the property. I bought it all. I knew how easily it divided. Each pot became two. But I wanted more and vocalized my disappointment to my brother and his wife. Imagine my surprise when a heavy box arrived soon after. I was delighted to find carefully packed pass-along Liriope muscari from their garden. The best part of this story is that the plants were passed along to them from a beloved aunt’s garden in Jacksonville FL. Better yet, she obtained her plants from my dear grandparents’ gardens in Richmond VA many years before. So I am the 4th person to benefit from these special pass-along plants! As soon as they are more established, my daughter in Portsmouth will be the 5th recipient.

liriope

There are two species of of the plant and I’ve cultivated both in the past: Liriope muscari, a plant that behaves as a mound of grass-like foliage and Liriope spicata, a variety that spreads as a wonderful groundcover.

When so many garden flowers are beginning to fade in July and August, Liriope is just beginning its show. The flowers are tiny however they are numerous along a spike. The hum of bees working the blooms is music to my ears.

It’s a terrific plant, tolerant of summer heat and lack of water. There are many species and cultivars with variegated leaves of green and white or yellow and white or pink blooms,and different sizes, however the solid green leaves feel cool and inviting to me.

This week, the mower with our landscaping service stopped his tractor and asked, ‘Can you tell me what those plants are that are blooming along your border?’ Of course I could… and if he plays his cards right he may be another pass-along donee.

Coastal Maine Botanical Garden

When friends invited us to join them Down East at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, we jumped at the opportunity. It was voted Tripadvisor’s #1 in April’s Top 10 Public Gardens in the U.S. For a botanical garden that only opened its gates in 2007, that seems remarkable.

The mission of the garden is “to protect, preserve, and enhance the botanical heritage and natural landscapes of coastal Maine…”  Almost 250 acres of stunning beauty and miles of trails along the waterfront, through pristine woodlands, and ornamental gardens simply took our breath away.

This time of year, the hydrangeas are stunning and the gardens took full advantage. The combination of large globular white flowers of ‘Incrediball’ and the hot pink of ‘Invincibelle Spirit,’ a fairly new addition to the market, were a delicious combination in the children’s garden.

Mist sprayed from several boulders in the children's garden to cool off on a hot summer day.

Mist sprayed from several boulders in the children’s garden, a fun way to cool on a hot summer day.

Wonderful whimsical touches invited children to run, to touch, to participate in all aspects of the Children’s Garden from watering the flowers, planting vegetables, to art projects.

My favorite garden was The Garden of the Five Senses. To show how a garden will delight, visitors are invited to renew their senses by sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch.

Five Senses Sweeps of my favorite daisy, ‘Becky’ (Leucanthemum x superbum) lined the pond in the touch garden. I stood there for awhile and admired the variety of insects that feasted on the beautiful blooms.

'Becky'

We took a break midway through our adventure to dine in the Kitchen Garden Cafe where delicious cuisine is created using organic and local ingredients. Herbs, fruits, and vegetables come from their own gardens. It was a very good day.

For more information about the gardens, go to the website for Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. To see more scenes from several of the gardens watch the slideshow below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Garden Party…. Maine Style

This being the first official weekend of summer, we decided to celebrate by taking in a garden tour just over the Maine border in York. It was a fabulous opportunity to peek over the hedge (see below) into a lovely estate, stroll through the gardens, enjoy refreshments and come away inspired by what we saw.

Brave Boat Harbor Farms I love a landscape that beckons visitors along gentle pathways from one garden to another, around corners, up hills, along stone walls, through woodlands and meadows with wonderful vistas and surprises along the way. Brave Boat Harbor Farm did just that. It was a true slice of heaven on earth.

Pathway to the PondA sampling of sights from our adventure. Click on photos to enlarge:

The Gunhouse, built by the last owner, a marksman and a gunsmith, was completed in 1980. This tiny getaway sparked a real interest among the men on the tour but I’d be perfectly thrilled to claim it as my personal retreat…

Many thanks to Old York Garden Club for sponsoring the tour and our gratitude to the family for throwing open the garden gates for visitors.

Pure Bliss at Dumbarton Oaks

Tucked into a quiet Georgetown residential neighborhood in Washington DC is Dunbarton Oaks, the home and gardens of the late Robert and Mildred Bliss. It was the gardens that I sought on a visit last week to recharge my batteries after a rather harsh first winter in New Hampshire.

Dumbarton OaksOriginally part of a land grant by Queen Anne in 1702, Mr. and Mrs. Bliss, purchased the estate in 1920, remodeled the 1800 era home and called it Dumbarton Oaks from the original Rock of Dumbarton land grant and the mighty oaks on the property.

IMG_3022Begining in 1921, Mildred Bliss began working with noted Landscape Gardener (as she preferred to be called) Beatrix Farrand for over 20 years to design the hillside garden retreat. Both women were well traveled and brought a European flair to the garden ‘rooms’ of Dunbarton Oak.

Strolling along the walks and through the terraced gardens with a sister from California and a brother and wife from Richmond, I felt I could have been touring Italian or English gardens filled with perennials, enclosed by high and low stone or brick walls, spring flowering trees, shrubs, vines and adorned with water features, fountains, seating areas, iron gates, urns, finials and vases.

LizWe began our adventure at the Arbor Terrace where a reflecting pool and an ancient wisteria with purple blooms dripping through a teak pergola framed a billowing cloud of chicken wire holding thousands of lead-crystal pendants. My California sister had expressly chosen this garden because of the “Cloud Terrace” display, the third in a series of temporary art exhibits by environmental artists. I must admit it was alive with movement, color, light, and sound. We sat beneath the wisteria pergola and watched as the sun appeared and disappeared and breezes moved the 10,000 crystals. A variety of colors twinkled and sparkled in the cloud and water.  Yes, we were awed by this work of art and were happy to be able to see it as it will be removed soon.

Cloud

wisteria I loved seeing the stone and brick steps and pathways adored with pink from crabapple, cherry, and magnolia tree blossoms. It was as if little flower girls had sprinkled them for a bride who will soon approach her groom in this spiritual place.

Our timing was perfect to witness the splendor of blooming Japanese Wisteria that tumbled over walls throughout the different garden areas. It was breathtaking.

wisteria

Japanese WisteriaThe Pebble Garden, a wonderful pebble mosaic sort of brought out the kid in me, enticed me to explore every curve and design. This was a later garden design, changing Farrand’s original design as the tennis court area.

Pathways ushered us from one garden room to the next. The Prunus Walk overlooked The Kitchen Gardens with attractive garden houses with terracotta tile roofs. Admiring the space, I thought of Thomas Jefferson who would have enjoyed exploring the vegetation in this garden.

The Prunus Walk of flowering plums stretched from the Herbaceous Borders to Cherry Hill. Beneath the trees grew a healthy groundcover of my favorite pink and yellow Epimedium.

Very Virginia, I felt at home on The Box Walk that took us gently down a 40-foot drop.

Walkways made from brick and stone designs continued around the estate leading us to various seemingly secret gardens.

We were happy to see that blooms seemed to be the theme on this warm spring day but I could tell that this was a garden for all seasons.

Just past peak blooms was Forsythia Dell, which must have looked like butter with happy forsythia melting down a acre of a hillside. Pathways led inside and above inviting visitors to discover a small terrace and seating.

forsythia hillBeautiful benches and seating areas were plentiful in almost every garden.

The Ellipse, a more formal garden containing an antique Provençal fountain surrounded by double rows of American Hornbeans, equally spaced and pleached to 16′ tall, invited us to explore.

Sculptor Patrick Dougherty’s “Easy Rider” stick creations gives movement to this peaceful but static garden space. This was fun for my California sister as she had played in one of Dougherty’s sculptures on a visit to Maui.

I love this: A private pool and terrace for employees and volunteers ONLY. How cool.

I hated to leave Dumbarton Oaks but it was approaching closing time. We exited the way we entered, along the drive on the East Lawn with the impressive spreading Katsura tree  (Cercidphyllum japonicum), planted in the 1800’s. Batteries recharged, we left with big smiles and appetites.

Any visitor to Washington DC who appreciates garden design is certain to enjoy the exquisite gardens of Dunbarton Oaks. It is 10-acres of pure Bliss.

There’s a new seedling in the garden!

A week ago,we were blessed with a new seedling in the family garden… a healthy new grandson. This tiny little sprout has drawn me away from my regular duties of gardening, blogging, etc. to spreading a bit of assistance wherever it’s needed for my daughter and her now family of three.

Before we know it, he’ll be stomping through mud puddles and trying to pull the dog’s tail, however, I’m truly looking forward to teaching another little one the joys and benefits of gardening and doing one’s duty in caring for this earth. I hope we can plant a ‘baby tree’ soon to grow with this little one the way my parents did for us. My siblings and I recently visited the Warwick (now Newport News) VA home where we were raised and the fully grown trees were a testament to our ages!

“A garden of love grows in a grandmother’s heart.”  Author Unknown

A Touch of Eden

Just about a mile from where we live, there are several large greenhouses on the UNH campus that are used in the agriculture, horticulture, and science departments for classrooms, research projects, breeding, Integrated Pest Management, organic gardening, sustainability studies and more. When I read they were opening the greenhouses to the community last week, we jumped at the opportunity to tour them, learn from professors and master gardeners, plus get a little break from the late winter bleakness.

Yes, there were crowds. We wandered and squeezed around people through the several greenhouses that were all connected to one building where educators, students, master gardeners were set up to answer questions or tell a little about the plants, the greenhouses and how they were managed. There were greenhouses devoted to annuals, some perennials, to crops, to herbs, to exotics and some where only students and staff were allowed entrance.

Hallways were arranged with attractive display gardens… pots, wall hangings, vertical gardens, tulip landscapes and horticulture students like Zack (below), tired from a late night getting ready for the open house, but ready to answer questions.

Zach yawned a bit but he was ready to chat...

We realized that some greenhouse had lots of healthy tomato plants and herbs for sale… CHEAP… and folks were buying and buying.

Other greenhouses held succulents, gorgeous exotics, and all those carnivorous pitcher plants, and orchids, some labeled, others not. There were ferns, a small pond, bananas, oranges… Pinch myself.  Is this Eden?

Flamboyant pitcher traps (Sarracenia levocphylla)

Another pitcher plant (Nepenthes x ventrata) from the Philippines

Orchids galore! (Paphiopedilum insigne)

Pitcher Plant with little bugs inside

Flamingo Flower or Boy Flower (Anthurium scherzerian)

Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula)

The melon greenhouse was filled with a variety of plants, all grown vertically. Fruits were supported in little hammocks. What a great idea!

And yes, like many others, we did succumb to the lure of healthy, large herb plants.  So we left after an hour and a half with a Tiny Tim tomato plant and some dill…. all for a good cause to raise funds for a trip for the students, we were told.

Now to keep them healthy until May 20 when the last frost is over in these parts…..

Forsythia in bloom…

Plenty of people I know look down their noses at forsythia. I admit that I once dug up and discarded a lovely forsythia shrub because I was influenced by negative opinion from a more experienced gardener. But I’m more confident now and I plant what makes me smile and forsythia really makes me smile. It brings back memories of my childhood, the full, naturally arching boughs that invited playtime beneath the branches.  It’s just beginning to bloom in this yard and although someone has pruned it into a sad light bulb shape, those tiny yellow blooms still capture the magic of spring.

They fibbed….

My grandfather loved roses. He grew beautiful prize-winning roses. My mother, a knowledgeable gardener, followed suit and grew roses for pleasure. But NEVER, EVER did I want a rose garden. I witnessed the time it took my mother to tend to her roses, examining leaves for fungus or insects, pruning, deadheading, picking off the Japanese beetles and plunking them into soapy water. (She never knew that when she walked away I dumped them out and rinsed them with the hose. Playing with Japanese beetles was great entertainment for a youngster with no TV, video games or smart phones in the late 50’s)

Years ago, a landscape designer friend opened the back of her car and unloaded 3 healthy red single Knock Out roses (Rosa x ‘Knock Out’) for me. “You must have these,” she said. “Disease resistant, insect resistant, no deadheading, no pruning, blooms all summer….  Carefree!”  I was grateful and appreciative but I was a little reluctant and wary. Carefree, indeed….

Carefree and continuous blooming were the two thoughts that stayed with me as I planted the three rose bushes center stage in my sunniest garden. The instructions read, “….compact plant, 3-4 feet tall and wide.”  I played it safe and planted a little further apart, two side by side and one slightly angled behind.

That was that. For two years, they were true to form. They did bloom heavily from June to Thanksgiving or until a killing frost. The shape of the shrub was naturally round. I never deadheaded. I never pruned. Japanese beetles visited occasionally but did not swarm. No black spot. No mildew. No aphids. I got compliments. I beamed. Eventually this became my new ‘Red Garden.’

Just as the directions read, they reached 3 feet tall after a year, then 4 feet tall the next summer, but they continued to grow…. 5 feet, 6 feet, 7, 8, 9, 10 feet tall. Eventually two grew together appearing as one massive bush. They have withstood hurricanes, salt water spray, Nor’easters, and an earthquake, and they’re still growing. I do not prune. I do not spray. I do not deadhead and I don’t fertilize.

They ‘fibbed’ about the 4 foot height but it’s all good: It is a favorite hangout for birds in the garden; I have lovely cut flowers from June to Thanksgiving; they provide great curb appeal as people point and ask about them before getting out of their cars; and this summer they provided a profusion of blooms as a backdrop for a wedding reception and photographs.

K.I.S.S. in the garden. What more could a gardener want?

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Hot Spot in the Garden

It’s been just over a year since we experienced a severe heat wave in Tidewater when temperatures topped 106˚ for several days in a row.  I survived only because I could escape to the comfort of the home but the garden suffered greatly. Water wasn’t enough to help in some cases. The worst casualty was a section of a bed of juniper (Juniperus c. ‘Blue Pacific‘) that endured the baking sun from sunrise to sunset.

Since I did not want to subject more junipers to this less than ideal location in the garden, I looked around for something else to fill the hot and dry bare spots. Sedum! Of course! Most sedums love the sun and will tolerate our coastal exposure. There are about 400 different species of sedum out there to choose from but I was attracted to Sedum ‘Gold Mound’ with its bright green needle-like foliage. It’s a low growing spreading sedum that will fill spaces around rocks or garden objects with soft mounds.

Gold Mound grows to about 8-10 inches tall and is relatively pest and disease free. This summer it spread gracefully around rocks, mingled beautifully with tuffs of grasses and has integrated with the surviving juniper creating contrasting shades of green. By the end of the summer, the sedum had snuggled into almost every crevice and was a focal point in this little garden. Garden objects and large rocks brought from other borders around the yard found their way to these bright green mounds, the happiest of whom is Peter who stands tall over the sedum welcoming visitors to the garden.

Peter

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

It’s a small, small, small world…

I have a few aphids on some of my beautiful Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum ‘Becky), daisies that have flowered profusely throughout the summer. I know aphids can overtake and cause havoc in the bed of daisies but I needed to know how much of a problem I had.

Shasta daisies

Insects buzzed and circled around my head yesterday as I knelt to check out the aphids that traveled along stems beneath the blooms. These insects will suck the sap out of leaves, tender stems and the flowers, and they will transmit diseases like fungus and mold. I saw no signs of wilting leaves or buds. And I saw very few aphids. Now the question, “Should I treat these flowers with an insecticide?” That’s a question that every gardener faces when insect pests invade their gardens. Insecticides would certainly take care of the aphids, but….

… what damage would the insecticide do? The answer to that question comes by observing your garden. There is a small world of insects living there, good ones and pests. Insecticides will kill all insects, benign insects as well as insects that are the natural predators of pests such as ladybugs, praying mantis, assassin bugs, spiders and more.  Let’s take a closer look at the small world around these daisies.

Hover Fly - click photo

The hover fly is a common fly in our area. It gets its name from their ability to hover in midair, then dart here and there, sometimes backwards. The adult does not sting and feeds on pollen and nectar and they are important pollinators but their larvae are very important predators of aphids, thrips, and other caterpillars. These are excellent insects for the garden. Insecticides would eliminate them.

Green Bottle Fly - click

The green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata), also called a blowfly, is a scavenger of all things decomposing and will lay eggs in carrion, thus cleaning up what other animals cannot eat. Unless this fly invades your house or garbage and causes problems, it is not a threat to humans in the garden. It’s a natural pollinator attracted to the nectar of the daisy.

miniature ants - click photo

Almost too small to be identified as ants by my eyesight, the camera zoomed in on these miniature ants who are after food, too. These are benign insects that do no harm to the daisies and are food for other insects and birds.

Skipper Butterfly - click photo

This little butterfly could be the Yehl Skipper (Poanes yehl), a fairly uncommon skipper that is seen along the coast at this time of year, but I prefer my IDs to be confirmed by an expert. This fella would be done in by an insecticide.

Soldier Beetle - click photo

This soldier beetle or Pennsylvania leatherwing beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) is a cousin to the lightning bug. They are common in the garden and beneficial as a pollinator and a predator of aphids and other small insects.

sweat bee - click photo

A variety of bees visited the daisies and we all know we need those pollinators. Although the sweat bee can be a nuisance when it seeks out the salt in our sweat, it is considered a benefit in the garden due to pollination.

mystery insect - click photo

These tiny insects were unknown to me. These winged insects were the size of pepper flakes to the naked eye. I watched them through the camera lens become the meal of a few hungry crab spiders that lived around the petals.

The answer to the original question about insecticides is IPM (Integrated Pest Management). IPM is a sustainable method of management using biological, cultural, physical and some chemicals to minimize environmental damage. Using a insecticide for the aphids indiscriminately will have a negative and damaging effect on all insects that depend on this small ecosystem for life.  Because there is no sign of damage to the plants and the insects are a part of the food chain for predator insects, I will allow the aphids to live in the daisy bed and permit the natural system to work. But I will monitor the flowers for signs of disease or damage. If I must interfere, I will learn about the life cycle of the insect, how best to control it physically, such as picking off or pinching the colonies to kill them. My next step will be to spray soapy water beneath the blooms. And if all else fails, the very last attempt would be a careful use of pesticides, preferably the newer natural pesticides derived from botanicals.

It’s better to become familiar with IPM techniques and implement a regular monitoring program before using any biological controls. Read more about IPM here.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Women Are Better….

… at choosing, arranging and tending to flower gardens, that is according to a 2011 poll by Roundup of 2,000 Brit gardeners.  Men agreed they were better suited for cutting the grass, looking after the vegetable garden, minding the patio and decking. They also admitted they were better at fixing and painting fences, digging and preparing the ornamental gardens beds, building a garden house or a greenhouse.

mister gardener's fence and vegetable garden

Women gardeners, on the other hand, acknowledged they were more skilled in the area of choosing plants, laying out the landscape plan and taking care of the flowers. They are more skilled at planting hanging baskets and choosing garden ornaments. Do you think the study would have the same results in the good old USA? According to ME, strengths in our gardens seem to be divided along these same lines.

Ann's playground

Whether men are better or not at gardening is irrelevant. I don’t think we are any better. I think they are just darn smart. Although the planning, buying and planting is great fun, it’s the weeding, trimming, deadheading that takes the most time. The Roundup survey found that tending the garden is the most consuming job with the average gal Brit spending about 9 hours a month making sure the garden is weed free, watered and trimmed. By the time I’ve filled three wheelbarrows with weeds and debris, mister gardener has finished his veggie garden maintenance, showered and sitting with a glass of wine watching me work.  Smart fella.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

It’s a Berry nice fall…

The last few mornings in Tidewater have been crisp and there’s no denying that fall has arrived. Most gardeners agree that one of the best parts of a fall garden are the colorful berries on shrubs and trees. Birds are migrating like crazy on this property and enjoying the berries as much as I am. They are filling their tummies with tons of berries and I am filling my mind with the beauty of a wide array of colors, shapes and sizes. Many plants for this landscape were selected just for the berries they produce. Here are a few in the garden today:

Poet's Laurel (Danae racemosa)

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica)

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica 'Alba')

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Other fall berries that I admire in my gardens are clusters of tiny blue berries on our Southern Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera), red coral honeysuckle (Lonicera semperviens) berries, bumpy red berries of the Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa chinensis), several varieties of cotoneaster with masses of berries that are still green, numerous viburnums, foster’s holly that cedar waxwings adore, red plump berries of the female Aucuba japonica, showstopper berries on several winterberries (Ilex verticillata), and one of the loveliest but a weed is the pokeberry, this one already picked clean of almost all berries by hungry birds.

Pokeberry (Phytolacca americana)

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Nightmare On My Street

At first they looked insignificant and harmless but these plants were really the devil in disguise. Like those really bad reptilian creatures with sharp teeth and claws who rampaged a town in the 1984 horror movie, Gremlins, I am currently under attack by a weed…. a devil weed, a dangerous villain, a Gremlin. It’s Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), a biennial plant in the Mustard family. Native to Europe, it is thought to have been brought to America in the 1860s as a culinary herb and indeed, it is edible.

The small rosettes of leaves appeared among my roses and lavender several years ago. I pulled up tons without recognizing the weed until successive years when the plant had matured into tall shoots, competing with the lavender, then moving on to other borders . Each year, I weed and weed and I think I’ve gotten it under control but when I turn my back, it multiplies as fast as those little Gremlins that terrorized an entire community.

It is a destructive invasive plant that is controlled best by hand-pulling before the plant goes to seed. Each mature plant can produce over a thousand seeds and once it produces seeds, it can become so prolific that it is difficult to eradicate. When it’s introduced into a new environment, it can aggressively spread into woodlands where it out-competes native plants and flowers that insects depend upon for life. The West Virginia White Butterfly (Pieris virginiensis) and the Mustard White Butterfly (Pieris oleracea) that lay eggs on Toothwort plants are choosing to lay eggs on Garlic Mustard which has proved toxic to both the eggs and larvae. The plant also produces toxins that suppress the mycorrhizal fungi that plants require for growth.

The plant has no natural enemies. For very heavy infestations where risks to desirable plants is at a minimum, applications of systemic herbicide glyphosate can be effective.  Since the seeds remain viable for five years in the soil, diligent monitoring is important. After weeding, do not compost this weed as the plant can germinate in the compost bed.

Wish me luck.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose…

On October 5 and 6, rosarians from all corners of the state bearing the best of blooms from their gardens will flock to the Garden Club of Virginia’s 73rd Annual Rose Show. The judged competition, sponsored by Norfolk’s Harborfront Garden Club, will take place at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens in the Rose Garden Hall.

Not only is it the goal of the Garden Club of Virginia to provide educational information about growing roses and showing roses, they will have on display interpretative flower arrangements from a competition between Garden Club of Virginia’s forty-seven member clubs.

Inter-Club Artistic

All are invited to the 73rd Annual Rose Show. For the admission price to the Botanical Garden, ticket holders will be able to visit the show and the vast gardens where approximately 3000 plants in the genus Rosa in different 380 species and cultivars grow.  Tickets can be purchased at the entrance to Norfolk Botanical Garden. $1.00 off coupon is available at the Norfolk Botanical Garden website.

Bicentennial Rose Garden

Co-Chairs of the 2011 Rose Show are Casey Rise and Lee Snyder.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Garden Tools

One of my required master gardener classes was a lecture on garden tools. Instructors were scheduled to instruct the class on the tools available for gardeners and the purpose of each. They were bringing examples of spades, shovels, trowels, rakes, saws, shears, weeders, pruners, loppers, hoes, garden forks and pitchforks. Whew! In the world of gardening there are as many tools as there are jobs and we were going to learn all about working in the soil with some and working with plants with others. I felt a little smug going in to this class. I was already a gardener and I had my basic arsenal of garden tools. I knew I’d be yawning, drawing doodles in my book, and looking at my watch a lot during class time.

No rust on these tools!

Boy, was I wrong! I began the class elbows on the desk and head in my hands. Several hours later, I was sitting up straight and had taken copious notes with small sketches in the margins. I found I did not know all the names of the tools I already owned. And I learned a few new names of other handy garden tools. A Winged Weeder? A Garden Bandit?  A Swoe?  A dibber? I learned when to use bypass pruners and when to use anvil pruners. I discovered I knew nothing about choosing a tool to fit my grip, did not understand the benefits of short-handled tools and long-handled tools, styles, weights, and materials. I learned, like proper shoes, garden tools need to be fitted to the gardener.

That was then....

This is now.....

And I learned valuable knowledge on sharpening my own tools (I tossed the dull and bought new ones) and the proper care of tools (I tossed the old and bought new ones).  I took my tools for granted and left them where I last worked in the garden. I’m much better now about wiping tools clean of any dirt or grass before storing them in the garden shed. I sharpen tools regularly and coat the metals with a mixture of petroleum jelly and light oil or a rust blocker spray like Bull Frog Rust Blocker (environmentally safe) to prevent rust. Another master gardener tip for treating metals is to fill a pail with sand and mix in used oil. Any oil will do… cooking, motor… but I do wonder about the environmental impact of eventual disposal.

I still have my favorite tools in the garden shed and it’s nice to know their names, to know how to use them, to know they are better cared for and that they might last a lifetime.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Late Summer Weeds I Love to Hate

I am not one of those people who can sustain the care of a garden on a regular basis. Better gardeners venture out regularly to assess garden conditions. Instead I seem to weed in less effective spurts. And my maintenance techniques are not for the faint of heart. I wait until I am triggered by the arrival of guests or I know I have two to three days in a row at home or the lure of a cooler day coaxes me outdoors away from other duties.  On those days I weed like a perspiring, grimy maniac from dawn to dusk (or later) filling several wheelbarrows with debris… lots of dead stuff, spent herbage, and tons of weeds.  At the end of each day, mister gardener and even the dogs give me a wide berth.

Having just completed a major late summer overhaul of the garden, there were the familiar seasonal weeds that seemed to taunt me. As my garden flowers fade, these weeds thrive in the sun baked ground, they sprout atop the fresh mulch, and they prosper without the existence of water. One weed that gardeners encounter this time of year is spotted spurge.

Spotted spurge

Spotted spurge (Euphorbia maculata) is a late-summer annual that forms a low, dense mat over the ground. This spurge seems to find every crack and crevice in full sun and it can grow over a foot in diameter. The lookalike spurge, prostrate spurge, roots at the nodes of the plant. Thank goodness that one isn’t a problem in these gardens!

Partridge Pea takeover!

Some gardeners welcome the Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), a native annual, to their late summer garden but I’m not one of them. Left alone, this plant reaches two feet in height and drops seed from pods in the fall. It does have a lovely yellow bloom that insects seem to adore…. even the red velvet ant, I read somewhere. I respect this plant but I can hardly give it an inch because it is so prolific. It prefers full sun but thrives in the shady area of my new secret garden where, alas, the soil is poor.

Common Woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta)

One last plague in the garden path is common yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta), a clover-like plant that hides in my steppable groundcover along the flagstone in full sun or shade. For effective weeding I slowly work my way along the flagstone, pulling the plant gently out of the sandy foundation where succulents, thymes and miniature grasses fill in the gaps between stones. Annoying as it is, I remember as a child chewing on the sour leaves so this weed, I don’t mind so much.

Following my Herculean garden undertaking on Saturday, I have retired from weeding duties until the next time.  The garden looks fine from the windows while I’m vacuuming. It looks inspirational from the deck as I fill the hummingbird feeders. The tall hosta blooms swaying in the breezes are thrilling from the porch as sip my lemonade. Sigh.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Hot and Dry Weather: Survivors in the Garden

Hot, dry, windy summer weather can be extremely stressful for plants in the garden. Temperatures in Gloucester have hovered near 100º for the last several days, topping out at 102 yesterday. Life seems to be fading from much of the garden. I am usually found hiding inside during intolerably hot weather, however in the late afternoon, I’ll take a stroll to check out heat tolerant plants that shine through the high temps. Several shrubs and perennials are doing well. Here are two that stand out:

The ‘Becky‘ Shasta Daisies, Leucanthemum superbum, that I planted en masse in early spring for our June ‘wedding garden’ are still going strong. I have been rewarded a hundred times over with waves of showy pure white blooms… great for admiring and great for cutting. They’re the 2003 Perennial Plant of the Year and are proving to be heat and drought tolerant. All they ask for is sunshine and a little deadheading.

Becky Shasta Daisy

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

Light: Full sun

Soil: Growth is optimum in moist, but well-drained soil

Bloom: June to September.

Another favorite that I’ve blogged about a couple of years ago is the Blackberry Lily or the Leopard Lily, a plant that is three plants in one.

1. In the spring, we are rewarded with blue green leaves than fan out in an attractive pattern much like an iris. Indeed it is a member of the iris family.  Familiarly known as Belamcanda chinensis, after a DNA analysis, the new classification is Iris domestica.

Iris-like leaves of the blackberry lily

2. In mid-July we are blessed with a multitude of small orange and red lily-like flowers, each blooming for a day then twisting like tiny wrung out rags before dropping from the plant. I’ve not read anything about the nectar of this flower but have observed a variety of insects actually competing over the sweet fluids.

Blackberry Lily and Sweat Bee

Blackberry Lily and red ants

3. In the late summer and fall and winter, the 3-lobed pods that are green and swelling now, split open to reveal the glossy fruit that resemble blackberries. These will fall from the plant and self seed or stems can be used for flower arrangements. I adore all three phases of this colorful summer perennial.

Belamcanda chinensis

Image via Wikipedia

It will reproduce by seed and by rhizomes which may be divided and shared. Plant rhizomes under 1″ of soil and allow to dry between waterings.

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 5-10

Light: Full sun, partial sun, partial shade (I moved my plants from full sun to partial sun and they seem less stressed)

Soil: Well-drained; grows taller in fertile soil.

Bloom: July and August

Zones: 5-10.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Venice in Bloom

The sisters arrived in Venice on the heels of Pope Benedict XVI who paid a pastoral visit over the weekend. He began his visit with a gondola ride from St Mark’s Square to the Basilica della Salute Church, then presided over mass for 300,000 in San Guiliano de Mestre Park. Although much of the local crowds had dispersed in the area, excitement was still in the air upon our arrival in this seemingly stone city.

As many know, Venice covers an area of only 458 square miles with a population of approximately 310,000, where all of the transportation is by foot or by water. All of the buildings in Venice are supported on oak and pine piles that are driven deep into the ground. The piles are quite sturdy since they can not decay in the waterlogged soil without oxygen.

There are gardens in Venice. A number of the present day parks were once private gardens belonging to the city’s nobility. These precious green spaces can be tiny, some hard to find, some inaccessible, but those that can be accessed are interesting and peaceful. Close by San Marco, the Giardinetti Reali (Royal Gardens) was originally created by Napoleon in the 19th century. It  offers pathways, tall trees, flowers, and plenty of benches.

The gardens we loved best were the simple window gardens similar to those we saw in Paris. Geraniums seem to be the flower of choice for a window box. The bright red blooms complimented the colorful facade of the buildings along the calli (alleyways) as we admired a multitude of them from our gondola, quietly floating along the streets of Venice.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Restorative Garden

While we are still feeling the effects of our local tornado, it is healing to move to the out-of-doors and be a witness to the contrast and beauty that nature provides. This week we gathered with friends in an a neighbor’s azalea garden, a woodland garden filled with over a thousand mature azaleas and large rhododendrons where pathways entice guests toward several garden rooms deep inside.It’s in a central area of the woodland garden that we met our friends and neighbors, the first gathering since our own Ware Neck tornado that brought wreckage to areas close by. We could offer comfort and condolence, hear stories of bravery and courage, and still we could appreciate the miracle of the garden that surrounded us. Almost every one of the azaleas in the garden was propagated by the owner, Art White, at his home in Maryland. He then transported truckloads of his plants to Ware Neck when he moved here. He allowed his azaleas to grow to their full height and he appreciated a full range of colors. The lavenders, purples, reds, pinks, and whites are like a big box of Crayola Crayons spilling across the landscape. Betty White, his wife, considers it a labor of love in the azalea garden, caring for the plants, sharing them, teaching propagation, and opening the garden for causes. The garden has opened for Historic Garden Week and this weekend, there will be  The Secret Garden Tour to benefit Rosewell Plantation in Gloucester.

Thank you for the garden visit. Gathering with friends, weathering the storm together, giving us back our feeling of well-being. We needed that.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester