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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

UMass Extension Garden Calendar for 2015 Available

UMass Garden Calendar 2015

UMass Garden Calendar 2015

The UMass Extension Garden Calendar for 2015 is now available. This excellent, and beautiful, calendar contains excellent information about garden chores throughout the year. Reminders of when to plant, when to mulch, when to prune, when to fertilize and much more. On some days you will get information about which plants attract pollinators, definitions of words like ‘layering,” and transplanting advice.

I appreciate the fact that the low gloss paper takes my own notes very easily.

The opening pages this year give full information about how and when to fertilize  flowering plants, what kinds of fertilizers are available – and how you should get a soil test to properly determine what fertilizers your plants really need.

UMass Extension Garden calendar

UMass Extension Garden calendar for 2015.

In addition to all this good advice, there is a gorgeous photograph of a seasonal plant for every month. I was particularly taken with the Gold Heart Bleeding Heart, which I happen to know lights up a shady garden spot with its bright golden foliage and pink blossoms.

To order send $12 payable to UMass, to Garden Calendar, c/o Five Maples, 78 River Road South, Putney, VT 05346. If you order before November 1 Shipping is Free.  After November 1 add $3.50 for the first calendar and $2.00 for each additional calendar. Think of all the gardeners in your life you could make happy with this beautiful and useful calendar.

Time to Plant the Garlic

Pat - The Garlic Queen

Pat – The Garlic Queen

It is not widely known but I was crowned the Garlic Queen at the Heath Fair this year. It is only right that I was crowned by Rol Hesselbart, who gave me my first garlic cloves to use for planting. Hesselbart has been growing garlic and and saving the best bulbs to use as seed for many years. The bulbs he gave me were easily twice as big as the garlic you usually buy at the supermarket.

It was hardneck garlic, Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon, that won me the queen-ship. This is the species that is best suited to the northeast climate where the winter is cold and spring cool and damp. Within this species there are many varieties that will give you a subtle variety of flavor. My variety is German, but other varieties include German Red, Purple Glazer, Siberian garlic and others. The Filaree Farm website will give you a good idea of how many varieties are available.

The hardneck is the remnant of the scape, the curly stem that will ultimately produce a seedhead, that looks a lot like a chive blossom. Scapes can be harvested when they are young and used just as you would garlic in your cooking. This year I sliced my scapes into half inch pieces and froze them. This just about doubles my harvest. I use a few scape pieces just as I would a diced garlic clove.

Softneck garlic, Allium sativum var. sativum, is the type of garlic that can be braided and it does have a longer shelf life which means it is the type you usually find in supermarkets. I have not grown this type yet, but my Garlic Crown was made with softneck garlic and I will use those cloves as seed this year, and have a softneck and a hardneck harvest next July.

Garlic is very easy to grow. It will grow in almost any soil, but it prefers a fertile soil rich in organic matter. Planting in good soil is how you grow healthy large bulbs that you can save and use for your own seed. They like sun but can tolerate a little bit of shade.

I wait until the end of October to plant. The clove will start sending out roots, and the soil will stay warm enough to sustain that slow root growth even when the air gets cold. I don’t really want it to send out any green growth. Still, if it should send up shoots that will be killed by winter weather, the plant will send out new growth in the spring.

I plant in a wide row and make three furrows about three or four inches deep and about six to eight inches apart. I take my garlic bulb and break it into cloves. Plant each clove, pointy side up and cover with two or three inches of soil. Then mulch well with six or eight inches of leaves and/or straw.

Preparing garlic scapes for the freezer

Preparing garlic scapes for the freezer

In the spring green shoots will grow up through the mulch. When the weather is warmer many people remove the mulch but I left about half of mine on, as a weed deterrent. Early in June the scapes will begin to appear. It is good to cut the scapes out, whether you use them for cooking or not, because they use up energy that should go into making nice fat garlic bulbs.

In mid to late July the foliage will start to yellow. When a few of the lower leaves yellow, but the higher foliage is still green, it is time to dig up the garlic. And I do mean dig it up. Don’t pull it the way you can onions which are nearly out of the ground when they are ready for harvest. Make sure you allow for the size of the bulbs when you begin using your shovel. I have cut into bulbs when I underestimated where they were underground.

Make sure you do not allow all the foliage to yellow. If the bulb is overripe the skin will split and the cloves will be loose in the soil. You may lose some of the cloves, and they will not store for very long.

I believe this is controversial, but I do give my newly dug bulbs a shower with the hose, washing off the loose dirt. I am careful not to damage the papery skins. Once washed and dried in the sun, I bring them indoors, out of direct sun, to cure, with their roots and stems, for four to eight weeks. Once they are cured, in a space with good air circulation, I cut off the stems and roots. I use my garden pruner for this job.

It is very important to leave the stems and roots on throughout the curing period    .

Having said that, of course, I use the not-completely-cured garlic whenever I need it in the kitchen. Actually, you can even dig up a garlic bulb before it is mature in the spring. This is called green or spring garlic and has a lighter flavor. Some cooks love to use it for its more subtle flavor.

Garlic should be stored in a cool dry space. I have a mostly unheated guest room so I box up the cured garlic and keep it there.

It feels good to have a bed or two of garlic neatly planted and mulched in the fall. I feel I’ve already made a good start in the spring when I see that neat bed with little green shoots coming through the mulch.

I haven’t explored the world of garlic very much so far, but I’ve been talking to people who are passionate about the differences in flavor, so I have a new reason to grow some different varieties next year. For the moment I have all I can handle.

The larger garlic bulb properly had the scape removed early in the season. The smaller bulb did not.

The larger garlic bulb properly had the scape removed early in the season. The smaller bulb did not.

Between the Rows  October 11, 2014

View From the Bedroom Window – September 2014

View from the bedroom window September 2, 2014

View from the bedroom window September 2, 2014

August was relatively cool this year, so it should have been no surprise that on September 2 it was 80 degrees and humid. The roofers came to put on a new roof – and were slowed down by a shower in the middle of the afternoon.

September 21, 2014

September 21, 201As

As the month progressed it became cool again. There was two inches of torrential rain on September 6 – and the new roof is not leaking! Our granddaughter Tricia’s wedding was held at Look Park in Northampton on Friday, September 12. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm. Then cooler weather again with a light frost on September 18. Some plants were nipped, but no serious damage. There does not appear to be much change, but the phlox is nearly gone by and you can see the green seeping out of the foliage in  the woodlands.

September 29, 2014

September 29, 2014

Fewer flowers are blooming in the Lawn Beds, but color is rising all around us in the woods.

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – October 2014

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day arrives this October after two hard freezes. The trees are richly adorned adding most of the garden color at this time of the year. The roses are very nearly done, but Thomas Affleck, right near the door, has nearly a dozen blossoms left. In the rest of the garden there are a few scattered rugosa blossoms, and The Fairy is still making a bit of magic.

Sedum 'Neon'

Sedum ‘Neon’

This is the second year for Sedum ‘Neon.” I will have to do some dividing. The Fairy is right behind her, as well as a snapdragon and a foxglove blooming at this odd time of year.

Chrysanthemum 'Starlet'

Chrysanthemum ‘Starlet’

“Starlet’ is a very hardy quilled mum that I keep moving around the garden.

Sheffield daisies

Sheffield daisies

The Sheffield daisies  are just beginning to bloom!  At least I have been calling these Sheffield daisies all year before they came into bloom, and now I am thinking they are some other very vigorous chrysanthemum. I have one clump of ‘mums’ not yet blooming. Maybe that is the Sheffie clump.

Asters

Asters

This low growing and very spready aster is definitely ‘Woods Blue.’ I just found the label while weeding today.

Montauk daisy

Montauk daisy

I am coming to realize that the Montauk daisy has quite a short bloom period. Maybe it doesn’t deserve to be so front and center.

Autumn crocus

Autumn crocus

A flower that does deserve to be more front and center is the Autumn Crocus. It is invisible in August when it should be transplants. Out of sight. Out of mind. Maybe next August.

'Limelight' hydrangea

‘Limelight’ hydrangea

The ‘Limelight’ hydrangea has had a good year and is doing better than ‘Pinky Winky’ planted at the same time, and the native oakleaf hydrangea. The enormous ‘Mothlight’ is also still blooming.

Lonicera sempervirens

Lonicera sempervirens

I am going to have to do something about this honeysuckle. She has grown enough this first full year and deserves to be arranged so she is more easily admired.

Cuphea

Cuphea

This annual potted Cuphea has given me a lot of pleasure this summer. Endless bloom.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

I plant these nasturtiums on the slope between the Daylily Bank and a bed of the Early garden right in front of the house. Such a cheerful flowers.

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding

And finally, in a knocked down tangle is Love Lies Bleeding. A right bloody mess. I expected long drooping tails of blossoms, but this looks like ropes of chenille balls.

What is blooming in your garden this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day?  Check Carol at May Dreams Gardens, our welcoming host.

Berries for the Birds

High Bush Cranberries

Berries for the Birds – High Bush cranberries

Many of us plant berry bushes, but do you specifically plant berries for the birds? Feeding the birds is a enjoyable activity, but because I have always had cats I have planted high bush cranberries, holly, and cotoneaster instead of putting up bird feeders. However, my first reason for planting these shrubs that produce autumnal berries is because they are beautiful. In addition to the plants I have deliberately put in my landscape I am lucky to have elderberries and grapes already in place.

In the fall many birds are migrating. When we had Stu Watson from the Audubon Society visit our woods and fields to help us make them more bird friendly, he told us that 70 to 90 bird species breed and nest in our area. Many other bird species pass through in the spring and in the fall. Audubon wants to keep common birds common, and providing, food, shelter and water will help do that. I realized there was a very good reason to plant berries for the birds.

I like thinking that our land provides safe and supportive space for birds, even if their needs were not uppermost in my mind when I did my first plantings.

One of the first ornamental shrubs I planted was the highbush cranberry, Viburnam trilobum. I was not thinking of the pretty berries it produces in particular, but only of the flat lacey spring flowers made up of fertile and sterile flowerets. That shrub has now reached a height of about 12 feet or more, and a pretty considerable spread.  Right now it is laden with clusters of beautiful red berries. They are not cranberries at all, but they are edible though my husband might ask me if they are palatable. We don’t actually have any interest in eating them ourselves. They are very sour, but the birds like them especially in the spring when protein rich tree pollen is available as a side dish to help metabolize the berries.

My highbush cranberry also supports a wild Concord grapevine. This vine was here when we bought our house and we hack it back when we have time, but we will never conquer it. Still, these grapes are another source of food. People who are growing grapes for their own consumption have to find ways to protect them from the birds.

The mountain ash, Sorbus americana is native to the United States and is a popular landscape tree. It can reach a height of 30 feet. It produces white flowers in the spring and bears brilliant red-orange berries in the fall. It also has good fall color with foliage turning shades of gold, orange, and even a dark red/maroon. The berries attract thrushes and waxwings.

Another tree that is said to attract cardinals, finches, robins, blue jays, and waxwings in particular is the mulberry. Mulberries are also edible and many people eat them out of hand or make jam. The birds just gobble them up. The one downside to mulberries is that the juice can really stain, which means that they should not be planted near walkways or anywhere people might congregate. No tea parties under the mulberry.

Mulberries have also been called ‘protector trees’ because birds like the berries so much that they gorge themselves on the mulberries and leave cherries and other crops alone. The native red mulberries, Morus rubra, are hardier than the black variety.

Callicarpa berries

Callicarpa dichotomy or Beautyberry

One of the most showstopping shrubs is Callicarpa dichotoma, or beautyberry. This is a small shrub that will grow between two and four feet with about an equal spread. There are small pink flowers in the summer, but in the fall it produces clusters of berries in the most amazing shade of purple. When I first saw this shrub growing on the Bridge of Flowers I thought they must be artificial. The birds have no such thoughts and find them delicious.

Beautyberry is deciduous and hardy to zone 5. It likes full sun but can tolerate part shade. I cannot grow this in Heath, and I think even if I lived in Greenfield I might find a fairly sheltered spot for it. It is a carefree plant with no serious diseases.

I don’t know if I was the last person to know how to pronounce cotoneaster (co-toe-knee-aster NOT cotton-easter) but even before I could pronounce it I knew it was a good groundcover. While I was learning how to pronounce it I also learned that I had one variety (name lost) that produced coral-red flowers in the spring looking very much like ornamental quince flowers. I also learned that birds love the red berries that appear in the fall.

Cotoneaster berries

Cotoneaster

I planted two different cotoneasters too near each other. That is what happens when you are too eager to cover ground. They now grow into each other which fortunately is not unattractive. One hugs the ground and one is a bit more mounding. Both have tiny lustrous dark green leaves. They are undemanding, but in my garden they did take a couple of years to really start spreading. I may be showing my impatience again.

Cotoneasters can grow in full sun or part shade. It is important that the soil be well drained. Established plants can tolerate drought. Happily for me, neither deer nor rabbits show any interest, allowing the birds to make full use of the little red autumn berries.

I also planted Blue Prince and Blue Princess holly bushes. Hollies need male and female plants to fruit. It is not yet Christmas but my Blue Princess is having a productive year. Lots of beautiful berries. The birds like them, but they will leave some for my holiday decorations.

Blue Princess Holly berries

BluePrincess Holly

Between the Rows  October 4, 2014

Asters and Mums – and Sheffies

Asters

Asters

Returning from a few days away I was happy to see that the asters are still blooming.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

These sunny quilled mums don’t look like the cold and the rain bothered them at all.

Montauk daisies

Montauk daisies

The Montauk daisies have started to bloom!

Sheffies - Sheffield daisies

Sheffies – Sheffield daisies

Do think I can now say that the Sheffies, my late blooming Sheffield daisies, are finally blooming?  I leave it up to you.

Flowers of Autumn – Beyond the Potted Mum

Japanese anemones

Japanese anemones

What do you think of when you think of the flowers of autumn? Chrysanthemums immediately to mind, if only because in September every supermarket dresses itself with ranks of potted mums. These mums are colorful, although a bit straitlaced in their pots, and may blind us to the many other flowers of autumn. However, there are many other fall bloomers.

One of my favorite autumn bloomers is the Japanese anemone. I have a large clump of the old pink variety Robusstisma. It begins blooming in late summer and continues till a hard frost. Like Robustissima, the standard white Honorine Joubert has a classic cup shape with a golden center. It is 36 inches tall and new flowers keep appearing over a long season. Both are hardy to zone 4, but there are newer cultivars.

Bluestone Perennials and WaysideGardens offer newer varieties as well as these old favorites. Max Vogel is a more ruffled pink with a brilliant gold center. Margarette is a deeper pink double variety that is only 24 inches tall. Whirlwind is a tall white double with petals that do look ruffled by the breezes. These newer varieties are listed as hardy to zone 5.

Japanese anemones are listed as rabbit and deer resistant, but I have to report with some chagrin that the deer have munched on my Robustissima, both before and after blooming.

Boltonia closeup in September

Boltonia closeup in September

Boltonia is another fall bloomer that isn’t mentioned very often, but this hardy plant, sometimes called a false aster, will bloom for a month. At four feet or more and covered with snowy white flowers just one plant puts out a tremendous show until after hard frost. Snowbank is the white variety, but there is also Boltonia Pink which is slightly shorter with pink petals around the golden center. Both are hardy to zone 4 and both tolerate a wet site.

Rudbeckia Goldsturm is a classic black eyed susan. This flower is hardy to zone 3, and not susceptible to any disease. It is also quite drought tolerant. It will bloom from July until well into September.

At four feet tall with unusual narrow rolled petals Rudbeckia subtomentosa Henry Eilers is a striking cultivar that will certainly attract attention.

Black eyed susans are such popular flowers and such late bloomers that it is no surprise that the hybridizers have glammed her up. Rudbeckia hirta Cappucino is 18 inches tall and the large double blossoms are in shades of golden red. Rudbeckia hirta Cherry Brandy will not bloom quite as late in the fall, but the deep red-maroon color is a whole new vision of the black eyed susan. All the rudbeckias make good cut flowers, as do the Japanese anemones and boltonia.

Good front of the border plants are garlic chives and salvias. I have various kinds of chives, and had forgotten that I had planted a new garlic chive clump in the North Lawn Bed. Garlic chives bloom in late summer and through the fall. The blossoms are white, not the purple of the familiar spring blooming chives. The purpose of my new clump was ornamental, a touch of white against a dark fountain juniper, but they can be snipped all season long for use in the kitchen. The flavor is more garlicky than oniony, and more gentle that garlic cloves.

There are so many salvias, and all so beautiful and useful. Culinary sage is a salvia and while it doesn’t have flowers at this season, the gray-green foliage is a very handsome element in any garden.

Of course there are many other colors of annual salvias like Lighthouse Purple, white and blue Sea Breeze and Red Hot Mama. Seduced by the peachy flowers in June I planted a perennial salvia listed as Autumn Sage Heatwave Glow. It still has a few flowers thought it is badly crowded by a trumpet vine, parsley and some enormous horseradish leaves. I don’t know whether it will survive the winter (hardy to zone 6, minus 10 degrees) but this year’s flowers were worth it.

Of course there are other fall bloomers including a world of chrysanthemums, asters and dahlias and other annuals. Just take a walk over the Bridge of Flowers and see how many plants are blooming this late in the season.

Ratibida

Ratibida

A final note. Many people are not familiar with Ratibida columnifera Red Midget, otherwise called Red Mexican Hat. I only became aware of this native prairie plant recently, about the same time I learned about the ‘bat faced’ cuphea which I have enjoyed so much this summer. Ratibida is hardy to zone 3. It is only about 15 inches tall and its small blossoms are comprised of reflexed red petals around a prominent cone. This seed cone will be very attractive to birds after the petals have fallen in the fall. Ratibida will not bloom as late into the fall as the other plants I have mentioned but they are so interesting and unusual I wanted to mention them. There is also Ratibida Yellow.  Look for them in my garden next year. ###

Between the Rows   September 20, 2014

When Will My Sheffield Daisies Bloom?!

Sheffield Daisies October 4, 2014

Sheffield Daisies October 4, 2014

It is hard to believe these are Sheffield daisies. They could be any chrysanthemum – except that my chrysanthemum is blooming.

Sheffield daisies closeup

Sheffield daisies closeup

I look closely at the Sheffield daisy buds to see if they look like they might be ready to open, or at least to be showing color. Why are they so late to bloom?  The summer was very cool for the most part. And dry in late August and all through September, but I did occasionally give them a deep watering. We recently had a couple of very warm sunny days and I hoped that would give them a big dose of encouragement, but alas, no.

Sheffield daisies October 14, 2013

Sheffield daisies October 14, 2013

Here is the answer to my question. When I went back to look at last year’s Sheffies I found that on October 14, 2013, when I was preparing for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the 15th, the Sheffield daisies were just beginning to bloom. Lot and lots of buds yet to open. I guess I just have to hold on to the hope that this October will be mild right up to November so I will have more of these wonderful blossoms to enjoy. They were still blooming last year on October 28. You can see that one of the reasons a blog is useful, not just fun, it because it is a great record book!

Dinner Theater at the End of the Road

Sunset October 29

Sunset October 29

A different kind of Dinner Theater. At this time of the year we are sitting down at our dining table in front of  big windows that look out across the lawn, to the hills beyond, and into the sky for supper right at sunset. The show is brief and doesn’t take us  all the way to dessert, but it is spectacular.

A little later October 29

A little later October 29

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Dahlia Season on the Bridge of Flowers

Dahlias on the Bridge of Flowers

Dahlias on the Bridge of Flowers

As a member of the Bridge of Flowers committee I am always happy when a visitor eloquently admires dahlia season on the Bridge of Flowers. Or any bloom season. Recently the Fine Gardening Magazine website featured a number of photos of the Bridge, and comments by Andy Engel of Fine Homebuilding Magazine – who finally followed the signs to the Bridge. To see his photos click here.

I have taken my own photos of the Bridge this season. Here is a sample.

Double bloodroot May 1

Double bloodroot May 1

Not all the flowers are as flashy as the dahlias, but we are very proud of our double bloodroot that bloom early in the spring. We usually have a few divisions to sell at the Annual May Plant Sale.

Azaleas  May 7

Azaleas May 7

The Bridge is a perfect example of a Mixed Border that incorporates, blooming shrubs, trees, vines, perennials, annuals and a few grasses.

Tulips May 25

Tulips May 25

Tulips can be pretty flashy in May and June.

Roses June 25

Roses June 25

June is the month of roses for me, but there are roses blooming on the Bridge into September.

 

Daylilies July 19

Daylilies July 19

Shady greens July

Shady greens July

The many shades of green have their own beauty and fascination.

 

Lilies August 1

Lilies August 1

Daylilies and other kinds of lilies in many colors all through August.

Phlox and crocosmia August 1

Phlox and crocosmia August 1

Never a dull moment.

Gladiola August 26

Gladiola August 26

Gladiolas are not usually my favorite, but I cannot resist this one.

 

Asters - September

Asters – September

And here we  are – back to September – but not for long – and asters as well as dahlias – and many many others. To call this Dahlia Season on the Bridge of Flowers is actually not very descriptive. I hope you will all come and visit.