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Hardy Kiwi Foliage a Stunner

Hardy Kiwi foliage

The hardy kiwi vine (Actinidia)  is possibly the only plant I ever wanted specifically for its foliage. I first saw it at Lakewold Gardens, a historic estate and gardens near Tacoma, Washington. In that beautiful garden it was growing neatly on a trellis and I was fascinated by the pink, white and green leaves.

It grows exuberantly on our shed next to the hen house and is in need of a serious pruning that will require a good ladder as well as good pruners. I bought mine from Miller Nurseries who promised its hardiness to -25 degrees many years ago. It has not only survived our Heath winters, which are ever milder, but also the depredations of the hens who have turned the Shed Bed into their own Lido, scratching and taking  luxurious dust baths there.

The hardy kiwi will fruit, but you must have a male and a female plant. I only have a single vine because I was not interested in fruit only in the beautiful foliage. I have a friend who bought a male and female, but one died. Unfortunately he forgot which was which so he had to buy two more to be certain of getting the necessary cross pollination. This is a lesson to remember. Sometimes good record keeping can really save you money.

Monday Record – Leafing Out All Over

Van Sion Daffs

Shoots are up, plants are leafing out. It is time to start keeping the Monday Record. The only bloom in the garden are these Van Sion daffodils that are growing against a stone wall – in back of the Buckland Rose. I thought I had dug out all the bulbs before I planted the rose here, but I was wrong. I wrote about how I identified this daffodil here. One reader said these were the ugliest daff he knew. I think they are a little unusual and I love how early they are on our hill.

Daffodil shoots

All the other daffodils are coming up in the lawn, but no flower buds are visible.

'Miss Willmott' lilac budding

Amazingly, my white ‘Miss Willmott’ lilac is not only leafing out, the flower buds are visible. None of the other lilacs are this advanced.

'Boule de Neige' rhododendron buds

The only other buds I can find are on the rhodies. I better go out and spray with Deer Off or the deer will have a nice snack and I will have no bloom.

Pussy willow catkins

There is no foliage on the pussy willow, only fat yellow catkins forming.


Various herbs are coming up in the Herb Bed in front of the house, but only the chives are of harvestable size.

'The Fairy' foliage

Many of the roses are leafing out. They show up best, photographically, on ‘The Fairy’.

Tree peony foliage

The three tree peonies show a lot of damage, but they have not given up. I will take extra care after I prune out all the dead wood.

Daylily foliage

I have lots of daylilies and they can always be counted on for early leafing out.

Lady's Mantle

Finally, there is alchemilla, Lady’s Mantle, in all their dewy glory. After a brief taste of summer, we are back to a slow cool spring. For the moment.

Spring Planted Bulbs for Summer Bloom

Gloriosa 'Rothschildiana' courtesy of Brent and Beck's Bulbs

The last planting season of the year is late fall when gardeners are racing to get in all the crocus, daffodil, scilla, snowdrop and tulip bulbs in the ground so they can look forward to an early spring full of color. But fall is not the only bulb planting season. There is a whole array of bulbs that need to be planted in the spring to bloom gloriously and often exotically in the summer.

Many summer blooming bulbs are native to tropical places that have a long hot growing season. Many will be happy in a container, while others are more commonly grown in the ground, but for the most part they are not winter hardy in our climate and cannot overwinter outside.

I have just ordered a Gloriosa ‘Rothschildiana’ from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Sometimes called a climbing lily, this unusual lily will grow to a height of about six feet and its tendrils need some kind of trellis or support to latch on to. The crimson flower itself has strongly reflexed slim petals, curving back from a green center with long graceful ‘eyelash’ pistils and stamens. Some gardeners have described this vining plant as looking as if it is covered with butterflies when it is in bloom mid to late summer.

Rothschildiana can be grown in a container or in well drained soil. It needs full sun, and since it is a tropical plant it is wise to place it where it will not only get bright sunlight, but where heat will collect and it will be protected from wind. The vital thing to remember with any container planting is that it must be kept watered, probably every single day, and they must get regular fertilization, often every other week with a half strength solution.

Crocosmia, also known as montbretia or sword lily grows from corms that are native to South Africa. Lucifer is the variety most seen in our area because it is hardy to zone 5 or minus 10 degrees. However, in zone 5 it should be heavily mulched for the winter. Lucifer is a dramatic plant with its strappy, iris-like foliage, and brilliant scarlet flowers on two to three foot arching stems. They are not only stunning in the garden, they work well as cut flowers and have a long life in a vase. New corms may take two years to bloom, but a large clump is a magnificent sight. It is a plant that gets lots of attention on the Bridge of Flowers.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

Crocosmia and the Gloriosa lily are both pest resistant. Rodents will not turn these bulbs and corms into lunch.

I love Oriental lilies with their recurved petals, but all lilies are beautiful. Gaining in popularity are what some are calling pot lilies, compact plants that do well in a container. B&D Lilies offer several of these smaller lilies including After Eight, a fragrant garnet-red lily with white banding that resembles some of the Stargazer lilies. It only grows to about 18 inches tall. B&D recommends at least a gallon potting soil for each bulb and warns that potting soils with fertilizer included must be avoided. Too much nitrogen will not help lilies and can hinder blooming. They also recommend using a rose fertilizer during the growing season, which is to say a fertilizer that has more phosphorous than nitrogen or potassium.

Rodolpha is pure white lily, similar to the magnificent Casa Blanca, but it will only grow to two feet, so it will be happy in a container, or in the front of a garden border.

Lilies love the sun, but they are hardy to zone 4 so they have no trouble coming through our winters. Even here in Heath.

Caladium 'White Queen' courtesy of Brent and Becky's Bulbs

Of course not all bulbs or corms or tubers produce beautiful flowers. Caladiums are big showy foliage plants that like the shade. Caladium foliage is prized because of its unusual colors and patterns. Moonlight is nearly white, lighting up a shady spot. White Queen is equally pale but vividly veined in red. Candididum Sr. has white leaves but the veins are green. Some foliage is wine red with dark green margins, some is green splotched with red. Not many plants can boast of foliage that comes in a full range of white, green, red and pink. A selection of cultivars will be available at local garden centers in the spring, but catalogs like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs will give a larger selection of bulbs that you can start early indoors.

I was interested that although caladiums like cool shade, they need warm soil to begin growing. Gardeners are advised to start them indoors in small pots that can be kept on a heat mat.

Caladiums do well in containers by themselves, or in a mixed planting with other annuals or perennials. They are also useful in cut flower arrangements, their handsome foliage showing off blooms to best advantage.

There are other familiar summer blooming bulbs and tubers. The Swan Island Dahlias catalog give a hint of the size and variety of dahlias. There are dwarf plants and small blossoms and large plants that will need staking to support stems that carry many blossoms. Dahlias are wonderful because the more they are cut for bouquets, the more they will bloom. Sun and well drained soil are the main requirements. Like lilies, dahlias do not like fertilizer with a lot of nitrogen.

Summer blooming bulbs can add color to your sunny garden and to your shade garden. The only difficulty is making choices among the hundreds of cultivars available.

Between the Rows  January 21, 2012

Foliage Follow Up – January 2012

Orchid cactus

I rarely participate in Foliage Follow-up, but Pam Penick at Digging has prompted me to take a good look at the foliage around me at this time of the year.

I have owned this orchid cactus (Epiphyllum) for a number of years. I pay almost no attention to it which is shameful, because it would bloom regularly and magnificently if I did. You can see I don’t even give it the pedestal it deserves. For the past year it has lived in a bright rarely heated guest room where it seems happy even if it doesn’t bloom.

I am making a new year’s resolution to prune it back and repot it in the spring.  I think I will go upstairs and prune it this very morning.

I do have other succulents. Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus which are among the easiest plants to grow.  They even tell you when they need watering. Before any serious damage is done to the plant the succulent ‘leaves’ will begin to shrivel slightly and feel limp. It just takes regular watering to bring it back into fine fettle.

Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii

This particular Christmas cactus lives in my bedroom, right next to a plump jade tree.

Jade tree, Cassula ovata

This jade tree is over 20 years old. My daughter cared for it during the two separate years we were living in China. She is as reluctant to prune as I am, and it grew so much more heavily on one side that the plant was leaning so dangerously that she propped up the stem with a small flower pot.  I finally did prune it  so that it was not only more attractive, but safer in its pot. Then a couple of years ago I left it right next to a north window in our unheated Great Room for the winter and I thought I had killed it for sure. It never got watered and became shrivelled and frozen, but I resurrected it in the spring when I gave it a radical pruning and watered it on a regular schedule. The leaves are now fat and healthy, if a bit dusty.

This citrus scented geranium is another plant I have had for several years. Still full of life, but another plant that is in serious need of pruning and repotting. Next month. I promise. I will also be able to take cuttings and start raising another generation.

Scented geranium roseScented geranium foliage takes many different forms. Check the online catalogs like Hobbs Farm and Logee’s Greenhouse to see the full range. Scented geraniums do produce small flowers, but it is the scented foliage that is the appeal.

Prostrate rosemary

This prostrate rosemary did beautifully in its pot out on the entry walk all summer where it is hot and sunny. I brought it in and put in in the south window of the unheated Great Room which did go down below freezing yesterday, but it still looks fine. Unlike my upright rosemary which got nipped by cold in the Great Room earlier in the season and which I am trying to revive in a warmer, but still cool, room.

This is what foliage looks like outdoors this morning. I am glad for the snow cover before temperatures plummeted. Four degrees above zero this morning.

Pam, thank you so much for Foliage Follow-Up.


Bridge of Flowers

The Bridge of Flowers officially closed on October 30, but it will be open for a few more days so people can take the scenic route from Shelburne to Buckland OR Buckland to Shelburne. Last week there was a final exciting event. Note the graceful ironwork on the Bridge sign. It was a collaborative community effort between Bill Austin and Grey Marchese of Austin Design in Colrain, artist/blacksmith Bob Compton of Rising Sun Forge in Conway, and Michael Therrien’s freshmen/sopomore carpentry class at Franklin County Technical School.

Tree of Friendship by Bob Compton

Last week Bob Compton installed this beautiful tree of friendship which will annually record the names of all the Friends of the Bridge who support the plantings and maintenance of the Bridge. As you can see this is a blooming tree and we look forward to the blooming of a strong neighborhood of Friends. Thank you, Bob!

Now that the flowers are gone from the Bridge of Flowers it is easy to see how important foliage is in any garden. Obviously conifers are an anchor in the fall and winter garden. The Bridge has two magnificent weeping hemlocks, one at either end.

Some shrubs have foliage that turns gold.

Others have scarlet foliage. I am not sure what this is, but it is not the invasive burning bush.

Some foliage stays green well into the season, but adds berries.

Some foliage, like this Pieris japonica is very dark.

The foliage of  this azalea is almost black in the fall.

Hakonelochloa 'Aureola'

The crisp dried grass adds a very different note,

As does the annual ornamental kale. There are many ways to have color in the garden after the flowers have gone.

Only Bob Compton’s flowers will bloom all winter.


Autumnal Surprise!


This fall we have truly been having a ‘golden season.’ The weather has been relatively mild, if rainy, and the usual flame of the maples was muted.

But a golden glow shone on every sunny day. But today we got rain – and a surprise.


This photo was taken around 4 p.m on Thursday.

October 27 9 p.m.

October 27 10 p.m.

October 28 7:15 a.m.

October 28 7:30 am


Country Roads – and Home

And home again.

For more Wordlessness click here.

Ray and Melanie – Heath and Heather

Melanie and Ray Poudrier

Gardens are planned, grow and develop over time as dependably as any single plant. Ray and Melanie Poudrier’s garden could be said to have begun when Ray’s father bought land in Hawley in 1942.

Ray’s father joined his mother and their brood of thirteen children on Hawley summer weekends to see the latest developments. The family grew a vegetable garden, had an orchard and a blueberry patch. They even rented a cow for the summer to have milk for all those children. What they did not have was electricity or running water.

They didn’t have a car during the week either, which meant when a few extra supplies were needed, Ray’s mother would leave a note for the mail carrier to give  Avery’s General Store, and the next day necessities would be delivered along with the mail and a bill. “We weren’t the only ones depending on the mail and Avery’s either,” Ray said when I visited for a tour of the gardens. “I often saw other bags of groceries in the back of the mail car.”

Happily, when Ray met Melanie and they prepared to marry, she was as up for Hawley adventures as Ray. As newly weds they began building their vacation house. “It was always exciting,” Melanie said as she recounted stories of bathing in a frigid spring fed pond after a day’s work.

Ray explained that because Melanie is so slim and petite, she is the one who could fit into tight spaces, like a well, or next to the house foundation to apply tar before the land was graded. That vacation house became their permanent home in 1981.

Heaths, heathers, stone and shed

The house was snuggled into the woods which they both loved, but when they decided to put up solar panels in the mid-1980s trees had to come down. “That opened up a whole new world,” Melanie said. Vegetable and flower gardens were shifted around and now the sunny land in front of the house is filled with extensive ornamental beds that can be admired from the house in every season.

The gardens include a whole array of perennials, but once they discovered the heaths and heathers they fell in love. Heaths and heathers both belong to the Ericaceae family, but they each have there own genus, Erica and Calluna. They are similar in that they are both evergreen shrubs, some very low, some growing to a height of three feet, some are upright, and some are very spready. The Poudrier’s sunny garden has the kind of poor acid soil that all that heaths and heathers enjoy.

“There is so much variation in the texture and color of the foliage,” Ray said. As we walked through the garden this was clear as we saw gray-green foliage, golden foliage that was bright even on that showery day, dark green and light green foliage and even foliage that was an autumnal shade of red all year long.

Calluna 'Allegro'

Heaths and heathers also produce flowers at different times of the year depending on the cultivar, but bloom begins very early in the spring and continues through the summer. Many bloom in various shades of pink and lavender, but there are also white varieties. “During its bloom season a plant can be a beautiful cloud of color,” Melanie said. Melanie added that some nurseries will tell you to shear back the plants in the fall to remove spent flowers and keep the plants neat, but she never did that. “The flowers just disappear,” she said.


Melanie does not mulch the plants either, because she said the voles were a worse problem than weeds. Mulch provides good nesting spaces for the voles who love to eat the heaths, although they don’t bother the heathers.

All their plants have been bought locally and they have found a good range of varieties. Many people don’t pay much attention to the color of or season of the flowers, but concentrate on the form and color of the foliage that provides interest in the winter garden. “You get a lot of bang for your buck,” Melanie said talking about the pleasure they enjoy all year long.

The Poudriers have included other plants whose foliage contrasts with the heaths and heathers. There are alliums with tall thin oniony foliage, European ginger with its low shiny leathery round leaves, and creeping savory, a perennial, which resembles the evergreens and produces white flowers.

Hawley Crowsfoot Schist

As varied as they are, the heaths and heathers are only half the beauty of the garden beds. The other half is provided by the magnificent stones that Ray has moved into place to provide a framework and structure for the plants. He is especially proud of a large slab of Hawley’s unique crow’s foot schist he has placed among the heathers.

Ray has worked with stones from the site for many years, building stone walls that mark the cultivated domestic landscape, an artistically arranged stoneworks around an ornamental pool, and a rock garden that includes not a single plant. Ray smiled when he said he wanted to build a garden for Melanie that would never need weeding.

Perhaps the best of all worlds they have found is stones with heaths and heathers.


Between the Rows  October 8, 2011

Heath and Heather

Erica - Heath

Yesterday, in the rain, I visted the gardens of Melanie and Ray Poudrier and paid special attention to their collection of heaths and heathers. These two evergreen shrubby plants are often mentioned together in the same breath, but I never really knew how to tell them apart until Melanie made me look at the foliage closely. Heaths and heathers are both members of the Ericaceae family, but heath of the genus Erica has needle-like foliage.

Calluna - heather

The foliage of genus Calluna or heather is quite different with scale leaves that remind me of cedar foliage.  Heath and heather foliage comes in a range of colors from deep to bright green, grayed green, golden or even red. You will be hearing more about this garden soon.

Two Bs – Admire and Work

Bridge of Flowers entry

The Bridge of Flowers is blooming and blooming, ready for admiration, but you can see that greens are important too.

Azaleas are just beginning to blossom, and Solomon’s seal is still blooming.

Iris season is just beginning.  That’s a dramatic combo with a yellow iris and orange  azalea.

The Bridge of Flowers loves azaleas.

Bleeding Heart

Surely it is clear by now that the Bridge of Flowers does not depend on a single type of flower.

Double impatiens

The bulb season is about done. No more daffs or tulips. Perennials and flowering shrubs take center stage, but annuals have their place too, promising bloom all summer long.

It is always a pleasure to run errands on both sides of the Bridge and take a few minutes to enjoy an ever-changing panorama.

Bullitt Homestead - Fall 2010

The Bullitt Homestead in Ashfield is beginning to offer programs and I am happy to pass on information about workshops.

Putting Down RootsMay 28-29th from 8am-5pm Explore a different type of garden. We will install a native landscape at Bullitt featuring a variety of annuals and perennial plants, including edibles and plants that encourage wildlife. This will be a hands on experience planting trees, shrubs, flowers and more. The weekend will consist of two days of planting, running from . Just let us know what day(s) you want to attend. Lunch will be provided.

Workshops are hands-on, so bring work clothes, gloves and appropriate shoes. Both also have limited space, so please call to register and for weather-related updates. Contact us at 413 628 4485 or email Layla at

If you are a seasoned gardener, these workshops can help you to “garden with your whole yard,” and explore resilient diversity in your garden. So come join us and be part of a remarkable change! Our workshops are hands-on, family friendly and free.