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An Early Bloom Day – before hard frost

Sheffield daisies

Sheffield daisies

Will my garden be blooming on November 15. the official Garden Bloggers Bloom Day? Maybe not. Therefore, I went around the garden today taking photos of the flowers blooming this very unusually warm November day. We have yet to have a hard frost although some plants were bitten and succumbed. This is what’s left on this gloomy day with a temperature of 50 degrees at 4 in the afternoon

Knockout red rose

Knockout red rose still budding

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose in a languorous pose

Limelight hydrangea

” one of three hydrangeas blooming

Nasturtiums

Annual nasturtium still sending out new blossoms

Butterfly Argyanthemum frutescens

Proven Winner Butterfly still blooming

Toad lilies – Tricyrtis

Red winterberry

Winterberry – holiday color if not a bloom

English holly

English holly right by the front steps

Daylight savings left, Eastern Standard time arrived and so did the 5 o’clock dark. But winter is not here yet so I celebrate this bloom day.

Flowers – A Secret Language of Love

Roses always speak of love, I think.

The Victorians had a secret language of love – flowers. I don’t know who decided that the peach blossom said, “I am your captive” or who then decided sending back a bunch of daisies meant, “I share your sentiments.” I do know that a century ago Kate Greenaway compiled and illustrated a volume called The Language of Flowers that listed hundreds of plants and flowers and translated their messages.

If a gentleman wished to compliment a lady, he could send a white camellia and testify to her “perfected loveliness” while a white hyacinth whispered of “unobtrusive loveliness.”

The Bridge of Flowers is all about love – for the community

A bouquet of red tulips would be a “declaration of love,” but we all know that the course of true love never runs smooth. Flowers don’t tell only of virtue, devotion or constancy. A modern lover might be surprised to have the florist deliver an armful of thornapple, but would surely suspect that a negative statement was being made. Greenaway’s hidden message is “deceitful charms”.

Inspired by Kate I’ve come up with my own possibilities for sweet whispered messages.

Cut flowers are wonderful, of course, but a living plant speaks even more eloquently of a green and growing affection that will not wither. Think of a pot of forced white tulips glowing in the candlelight saying, “You light up my life.”

Sunny roses for sunny loving days

Parma violets are one of the most romantic flowers. Fragrant nosegays of them litter the pages of sentimental novels and are presented to divas by ardent admirers. But if I set out a potted Prince of Wales, one of those faithful blue violets, my beloved should understand I consider him my own noble prince.

If my sweetie is even more than a prince, more than an ace, I would present him with a rex begonia, noted for its large handsome leaves in deep royal hues, which declare, “My King!”

Or, in a gentler mood I would set out a delicate angel wing begonia with pale pendant blooms blushing in the candlelight, “My guardian, my angel!” (You will notice that in the throes of a romantic message, there is no such thing as too much soppiness.)

Love has inspired countless volumes of poetry, and romantic rhymes have been uttered behind the palms at a ball and over the French fries at McDonald’s. I wish I were capable of poetry, or at least of reading a roundel or sonnet to my beloved. Surely my spouse would immediately understand that when I set out a bonsai landscape, an artistically windswept miniature tree on a mossy bank, that I am referring to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

“Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough,

A flask of wine, a book of verse – and thou

Beside me singing in the wilderness.”

I will supply the wine, bake the bread, and even roast the beast for my love to consume and enjoy.

Juniper bonsai

If I come home with a blooming passionflower, its twining, clinging tendrils and passionately purple flowers would leave little to the imagination about the sweet nothings I’d like to be whispering.

More subtle would be a pot of oxalis, often sold as lucky four-leaf clovers, but the leaf segments are somewhat heart-shaped and in my book their message is, “You are my good fortune.”

We women know that there is no better place for a heart-to-heart than over a lovingly prepared meal. I could set out a centerpiece of potted herbs. In a look back I could take a leaf out of Kate Greenaway’s book and choose peppermint for warmth of feeling, and sage for domestic virtue. Or, thinking of the song, “You’re the cream in my coffee. . .” my modern message might be, “You are the flavor and savor in my life.”

Love, like many plants, is tolerant of occasional forgetful carelessness, but routine observation and thoughtful tenderness will make it flourish like a green bay tree.

A rambler rose, but true love rambles no more.

Three Views of The Lion’s Fairy Tale Rose

Lion's Rose

Lion’s Fairy Tale rose, Kordes

I am so happy with my Lion’s Fairy Tale Rose, one of Kordes Fairy Tale Series. I planted it last summer and did not expect nor get any flowers. Still, it took hold and came through our odd winter weather, mild until it got bitter cold very late in the season. One of the things I like is the way it produces clusters of bloom.

Lion's Rose

Lion’s Fairy Tale Rose

I love the creaminess of this white rose as it begins to bloom. I am not the only one to consider this a magnificent rose. In 2002 it won the German ADR Rose Award and in 2006  it was given a Gold Medal in the Gold Standard Rose Trials. The foliage is almost as beautiful as the rose.

Lion's Fairy Tale

Full blown bloom of Lion’s Fairy Tale rose

The full blown blossom remains lovely. This rose will grow to be about four to five feet tall with a fairly upright growth habit. I realize now that I planted it too close to Thomas Affleck which is quite a large rose, and will have to move it in the fall when it goes dormant. It will move to the North Border (which gets plenty of sun) where Fantin Latour and the Alchymist climber have also taken up a new residence.

 

Roses at the End of the Road – Sale

The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road is the tale of my life in Heath and the roses that lived, and died, in the gardens at End of the Road Farm.

 My first rose was the delicately pink  Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, followed by a number of elegant ladies like Madame Legras de St. German, the Queen of Denmark and the Wife of Bath. However there were a few gentlemen like Martin Frobisher and William Baffin. The Rose Walk famously added a collection of Farmgirls, Rachel, Alli, and Mabel which came from other local farms in Heath.

For your reading delectation the following is a sample chapter

Saint Fiacre Sat Here.

 Did you know, Saint Fiacre is considered the patron saint of gardeners? You can go to some garden centers and buy a statue of the good saint with his spade.

     As it happens Saint Fiacre is also the patron saint of French taxi drivers. In Paris there is a large taxi rank outside the Church of Saint Fiacre. A slang term for French taxi drivers is “le fic”, a colloquial reference to “figs” or that occupational hazard of taxi drivers – hemorrhoids. Inside the Church of Saint Fiacre is a stone bearing the imprint of the good saint’s bottom; sitting on this stone is said to cure that ailment.

      One late June day my husband returned from working in the field shouting with excitement. “Wait til you see what I found!”.

      I was confused at the sight of a somewhat triangular concave boulder.

      “Sit on it!” he ordered.

      I sat and was comfortable because the concavities were so well shaped to my bottom, but still confused.

      “Don’t you see what this means? This means that St. Fiacre was here! He walked these Heathan hills and left his imprint for us gardeners just as he did for the French taxi drivers!”

      I knew about the French taxi drivers and protested that we gardeners did not suffer from hemorrhoids.

      “No, but we do suffer from a gardener’s particular problem,” he said lugging the stone to a log section I used as a stool. He set the rock on the log and sat me down on it. “Now, do you feel a cure taking place?”

      I sat on the stone, my bottom tenderly supported and I looked around. The sky was an azure dome, birds were singing and turning somersaults in the air. The breezes were fragrant with the scent of my roses, blooming in shades of pink and white. The lawn, weedy patch though it was, was cool and green beneath my bare feet.

       I sat in silence for a moment, then sighed. “I don’t know what you mean about a cure, but just look at this perfect day,” I said. “And I think the garden looks perfect, too.”

      “There you have it. You are cured of gardener’s syndrome of never sitting to simply admire the beauty of the garden. You have put aside the spade and trowel, the weeder and pruners. You’ve ignored the weed, the beetle and aphid and admired the whole.”

      Well, I wasn’t totally cured, of course, but I do sit periodically on the stone for booster shots.

      The Annual Rose Viewing at the End of the Road is our ritual event to encourage everyone to stop and smell the roses.

      One visitor this year asked me if roses were a youthful passion, if I had loved them always. I had to confess that this was not the case. Like so many others I thought roses were fussy plants requiring much more care than I could imagine supplying. Even after reading Katherine White’s book, Onward and Upward in the Garden,  even after becoming fascinated with the romantic idea of  the ancient gallicas, albas, and damasks, I did not picture myself as a rose gardener.

      When we first moved to Heath I was devoted to the idea of vegetable gardens, but in 1981 I planted my first hardy old fashioned rose. I was seduced by the provocative name, Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, as well as by its history as a favorite of the Empress Josephine. Without giving much thought to the ramifications, I planted Passionate Nymph’s Thigh next to the unused front door and right under the roof line where it has endured ice and snow cascading down onto it for over 20 years. In self defense it leans away from the house and towards the sun, but blooms every year in a shade of delicate flesh pink. It thrives with the stamina that you might expect of any passionate nymph.

      Our own Saint Fiacre stone still sits in the Rose Walk between Madame Zoetmans and Therese Bugnet, across from the Queen of Denmark. Visitors to the Rose Viewing sit on the saint’s stone, or touch it, and we all ignore whatever tasks have been left undone. We walk under the azure dome of sky, and inhale the breeze-borne scent of roses. We forget our chores, admire the beauty that we have cultivated and give thanks.

If you would like to buy a copy of the book send me an email order at commonweeder.com and I will respond and make arrangements.  If you want to read the book right now, Kindle editions are now on sale for only 99 cents.

 

The Shrub and Rose Border Begins in Greenfield

Shrub border begins

Shrub and rose border  begins

I first became acquainted with Julie Moir Messervy through her book The Inward Garden: Creating a space of beauty and meaning. This beautiful book approaches garden design through seven archetypes, the cave the prairie, the mountain, the sea etc., and the way that a garden makes you feel. It is this attention to the mood I might want in my garden that interested me.

That attention to mood might have begun when as a graduate student she spent a year and a half in Japan and fell in love with Japanese gardens while working with a master. She later wrote Tenshin-in about the renovation of the Japanese garden at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts that she worked on. The quiet mood of a Japanese garden is one that has always appealed to me and I felt that Messervy and I were of one mind.

I met her in the flesh in 2009 when she came to South Deerfield to speak at the Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium. She had finished her book Home Outside: Creating the landscape you love and came to encourage us as we worked to create a domestic landscape that worked functionally, and that made us happy in that space. I say all this so you will understand how pleased I was when her design business asked me if I would test her new free app, Home Outside Palette which allows you to play with design elements in your yard/garden on your phone or tablet. For $14.95 extra you can fill the app with extra design capabilities. But beyond that they asked if I would use their custom design service Home Outside and write about the experience.

When this offer came we had just closed on our house in Greenfield. The house has a hellstrip and a tiny front yard, a sunny southern side yard and a mostly blank rectangular back yard that was all grass. I had been looking at that blank slate of a yard and saw infinite possibilities and so many decisions waiting to be made. Needless to say I accepted the offer.

Home Outside design service begins with a questionnaire about your style preferences – modern, curvy, symmetrical; what you like to do in your garden; description of the space; and finally a Wish List, as long as you want, of everything you wish to have in your garden. That questionnaire gets e-mailed along with a Google Map image of your house and lot.

While we waited for the design to arrive my husband and I got to work on the parts of the garden that were already planned. I have written about our hellstrip which is now almost completed. Time to set to work on the southern shrub and rose border.

cardboard - first layer for lasagna

cardboard – first layer for lasagna

The south border of our lot abuts the driveway of my new neighbor. Our plan was to create a shrub border that would eventually provide a prettier view than a strip of blacktop, as well as plenty of bloom. In front of large shrubs like hydrangea I wanted roses, with particular attention to modern, disease free roses. It was great fun to go off and buy enough shrubs and roses to fill a 40 foot long border. I have hydrangeas in Heath and I now have Limelight, Firelight, and Angel’s Blush in Greenfield. I bought Yankee Doodle and Beauty of Moscow lilacs, Korean spice viburnam and viburnam trilobum or highbush cranberry. The lilacs are about the smallest bushes of this array.

In front of the shrubs I planted roses: Zaide, Polar Express, Thomas Affleck, Folksinger, Lion Fairy Tale, The Fairy, Purple Rain and Knock Out Red. In between are perennials and groundcovers from Heath.

On June 3 we started to work on the shrub and rose border. Instead of trying to dig up all that sod we once again used the lasagna method of planting. My husband weed-whacked the grass down to soil level and then we planted the shrubs, digging large holes and amending the removed soil with a good helping of compost before returning it to the hole. After each shrub was in the ground we watered them well.

Compost and loam on cardboard

Compost and loam on cardboard

We usually planted at least two shrubs at a time, because the next step was covering the soil with a good layer of cardboard, making sure to overlap pieces so that no soil was showing. Then I watered the cardboard, getting it as soaked as possible. On top of the cardboard we spread about three inches of compost, and then topped that with another three inches of compost-enriched loam.

All the shrubs, including the roses are planted in the ground, but most of the perennials, groundcovers and annuals are planted in the compost and loam on top of the cardboard. Over time the cardboard will rot away, becoming compost itself, and all plants will be growing in improved soil. We have been fortunate to have had so much rain which meant that we didn’t have to do a lot of watering.

As of July 6th the shrub border is essentially finished although we haven’t yet created a real edge. Right now we just have raggedy bits of cardboard sticking out. An edge will come soon, along with a layer of mulch. All that bare soil cannot be left to welcome the weed seeds in the air.

First shrubs and roses in south border

First Shrubs and Roses in South border  July 6, 2015

Just as we were finishing we received our Home Outside plans for the backyard! The powers that be decided to send us two different custom plans. We could choose one or the other or combine them to our hearts content.

Next week I’ll reveal the landscape designs – and what we have made of them.

Between the Rows   July 11, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – July 2015

Angel Blush Hydrangea

Angel Blush Hydrangea

On this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day I am celebrating blooms in two gardens, although I dearly hope it will not be too long before I am once again tending a single, small garden. In Greenfield the hydrangeas in the Shrub and Rose border are beginning to bloom even though they were planted only a month ago. Angel Blush is joined by Limelight and Firelight. These hydrangeas will form a beautiful privacy fence.

Button Bush

Buttonbush

Buttonbush was only planted two weeks ago, but once in the very wet ground it finally burst into bloom. It has been waiting in its pot for over a month.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

In Heath the Thomas Affleck rose continues to endure the rain, and all the other oddities of this year’s weather. Needless to say, another Thomas Affleck has been planted in Greenfield, but not permitted to bloom this year.

Purington rambler

Purington rambler

It has not been a great year for many of the rose bushes, but the Purington rambler hasn’t minded the bitter winter, or the undependable spring and summer. I wish someone could tell me how to properly weed such a vicious plant. I suppose putting it up on a fence might help instead of letting it tumble on the Rose bank.

The Fairy rose

The Fairy rose

Only a very few rose blossoms elsewhere in the garden, but I can always count on the Fairy even though she is a bit more petite this year.

Achillea Terra Cotta

Achillea Terra Cotta and yellow loossestrife

I am taking bits of the the various Achilleas and the old yellow loosestrife down to the new Greenfield garden.

Coneflowers

Coneflowers

The coneflowers are blooming in front of the pink cosmos which you can’t see, but they are very pretty together.

Daylily bank

Daylily Bank

Daylilies never mind any kind of difficult weather and this is their season.

Daylilies

Daylilies

Some of these daylilies are making their way down to the Greenfield garden.

Mothlight hydrangea

Mothlight hydrangea

The Mothlight hydrangea in Heath is about 12 years old and has never been so exuberant. Will the Greenfield hydrangeas look like this? Limelight and Pinky Winky are also just coming into bloom.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day which gives us all a chance to share our gardens, and see what is blooming all over this great land. Click here for more blooms.

Rose Viewing Memories

Mount Blanc rugosa

Mount Blanc rugosa

The Last Rose Viewing has come and gone, but it was an unforgettable day – Rain!  I always said ‘It never rains on the Rose Viewing’ but that record was broken on Sunday when there was mist – and then real rain. But hardy souls turned up anyway dressed in slickers and boots, umbrellas at the ready.

Rose Viewing attendees

Rose Viewing attendees

It was not only raining, it was cold. Those little girls were not happy. This was not their scene. However, before everyone left we enjoyed a tribute to the roses, sung by two very creative and musical friends, Dave Gott and Ted Watt,  to the tune of The Last Rose of Summer. Poet Thomas Moore wrote the original poem, but it was much too sad for even a day washed with rain.

“T’is the last Heath Rose Viewing/ In a wold drenched with rain/ But kind friends have here gathered/ To give tribute again.

To the love of pure beauty/ That this garden brings to all/ Thank you dear Pat and Henry/ for your gifts great and small.

We have swooned over Mabel/ Red Knockout and White Dawn/ Coveted Cuisse de Nymph/ Carefree Beauty and Champlain.

We have rambled this hill top/ Paradise so close to heaven/ May we all cherish memories/ Of these times we have been given.

Rose Viewing from the fireside

Rose Viewing from the fireside

Granddaughters Tricia and Caitlin kept the hot tea flowing by the fireside. The traditional menu of cookies and strawberries was at hand.

There will be roses at the Greenfield house, but it will be a while before they are ready for viewing.

Annual Rose Viewing – June 2015

Rachel Rose

The Rachel Rose

This year the Annual Rose Viewing will be the Last Rose Viewing – at the End of Knott Road in Heath. The Rachel Rose, named for one of Heath’s grand dames, will be holding court with other notables like The Queen of Denmark and Madame Plantier.

Mount Blanc Rugosa
Mount Blanc rugosa

The rugosas are among the first roses to bloom in June. Fragrant Mount Blanc is one of my favorites.

Thomas Affleck Rose
Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck does not have the promised fragrance (at least not in my garden) but he does bloom energetically early and late in the season.

The Rose Viewing is always the last Sunday in June because these hardy and old fashioned roses bloom for such a short season, and the end of June is when I can count on most of them to be strutting their stuff.  This year that is June 28 from 1-4 pm. Cookies and lemonade will be served. The weatherman is predicting rain, but so far it has never rained on the Rose Viewing. We’ll see.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – June 2015

Flowery Mead

Flowery Mead aka The Lawn

On this June Garden Bloggers Bloom Day we feel summer has finally come to our hill in western Massachusetts.  Consistent warm weather has been a long time coming and some plants show cold damage that arrived all too late in the season. This section of our lawn remains a flowery mead because I have planted daffodils here and we have to wait  this long before mowing down the spent daffodil foliage.

Rugosa Apart

Rugosa Apart

At this time of the garden season we are madly preparing for the Annual Rose Viewing on June 28. This year it is the Last Rose Viewing because we will be moving to Greenfield very soon. This rugosa rose, Apart, is as beautiful and fragrant as ever, but the  bush did take a winter beating and is rather smaller than usual.

Harrison's Yellow rose

Harrison’s Yellow rose

Harrison’s Yellow is one of the earliest bloomers. There won’t be much left by the Rose Viewing.

Therese Bugnet rugosa

Therese Bugnet rugosa

Therese Bugnet has the delightful energetic spread of the rugosas, but her foliage is a bit smaller and finer. She is wonderfully fragrant. Other roses aare blooming, Dart’s Dash rugosa, two unamed but vigorous roses, one low and one tall, Rosa Rubrifolia (or Glauca), yellow Alchymist,  Woodslawn Pink, and Purinton Pink.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck is an astonishing rose, blooming early and late. I planted him near the door because the catalog promised fragrance, but that has never appeared.  You can see there is a little cold damage from a night or two ago. More roses have yet to bloom.

Mount Blanc rugosa and iris

Mount Blanc rugosa and iris

This isn’t a great photo of my favorite white rugosa, tall and fragrant Mount Blanc, or the iris, but I wanted to give them both credit for helping with bloom day. There are white and blue Siberian irises blooming here and there. I’ll take some to Greenfield for the new garden.

Peony

Herbaceous peony

Years ago I moved all the peonies I had planted right in front of the house. Somehow I left a bit of peony root – which has grown into this beautiful clump, surrounded by weeds, right next to the vegetable garden – also in dire need of weeding. The very pretty white lady’s bedstraw is a curse. Many of the peonies in the ‘new’ Peony Bed are late varieties – so chosen to make sure there is another spectacular plant in bloom for the Rose Viewing.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves

These foxgloves were given to me by a friend in the middle of last summer. They endured transplanting at an inauspicious season and are beautiful in this season.

daylily

Daylily

This is the first daylily to bloom on the Daylily Bank in front of the house. This will start to be a full Bank of Bloom once we get into July. I have brought a couple of these plants to the new garden in Greenfield.

Campanula 'Joan Elliott'

Campanula ‘Joan Elliott

As you can see, this clump of Joan Elliott has not been deterred by dividing and removing. Bits of root continue to grow and make flowers. I’m taking a bit of Joan from the lawn to Greenfield as well.

 

Columbine

Columbine

Several native columbines are blooming here and there. These are not the fancy columbines, but I treasure these – in white, pink and purple as well as this red and yellow. Garden Bloggers Bloom Day gives me a chance to praise these modest flowers.

Allium

Allium

I can’t find the name of this tall, large allium. I won’t plant it among the peonies ever again.

Salvia 'May Night'

Salvia “May Night’

The blue of ‘May Night’ seems blue-er this spring.

Trollius

Trollius

This clump of Trollius is paler than others, but lovely all the same.

Mock Orange

Mock Orange

The large mock orange is planted at the corner of the Cottage Ornee where its fragrance can waft inside.

Griffith Buck rose 'Applejack'

Griffith Buck rose ‘Applejack’

Every day we are closer to the Last Rose Viewing. Applejack will greet visitors as they arrive. This is one of the oldest roses at the End of the Road.

This is the last June Garden Bloggers Bloom Day at the End of the Road, but there will be many more to come in Greenfield. I thank Carol at May Dreams Gardens for giving us all the chance to show off  our bloomers all across this great land. To see more click here.

Thomas Affleck – A Mighty Rose

Thomas Affleck Rose

Thomas Affleck Rose

Thomas Affleck is not blooming yet, but I did clean out the Herb Bed where this rose is the western anchor. It looks like it came through our horrendous winter well. All that deep snow was a blessing for many plants. Chives and parsley and marjoram are showing new growth, but I am going to have to wait a while more the roses to bloom.

Thomas Affleck came from the Antique Rose Emporium where many of my most beautiful roses. They have Old roses, new roses, and roses in any shade of pink, red, white and yellow.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.