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Dear Friend and Gardener

Squash Borer Attack

Squash borer and entry

Squash borer entry and damage

Last Sunday I went on an education edible garden tour and learned about the Squash Borer. In the first garden we visited we all noticed a yellowing and flopping squash plant. Was it lack of watering? No! We were seeing the fatal damage  caused by a squash borer.

Though I grew squash in Heath for many years I never had squash borers  so  this was quite an education for me. Espececially since when we got home and looked at the summer squash plants I had put in because I thought all that squash foliage would cover the ground and keep down weeds while other plants grew larger. A couple of my plants  also had slightly yellow drooping leaves and evidence of squash borer entry.

Squash borer larva

Squash borer larva

The fingertip in the photo is just to give a sense of scale.  I immediately went around the garden and found  several more plants showing borer damage. A friend told me all I had to do was slit the affected stem with a sharp knife and that would kill  the borer. I did some slitting but I also did some online research. I don’t think the slitting will do any good.

The adult vine borer is a moth that will lay its tiny eggs at the base of a stalk. They are not really visible and it is only after they have hatched and begun their entry into the stalk, leaving the evidence of their ‘frass’ (the proper work for borer excrement) at the entry point. You can try to slit the stem and pull out the larva which will grow to an inch long, but there does not seem to be agreement that this will lead to a squash harvest.  And to make things worse, since  I have borers now, I probably also have pupating borers in my soil that will hatch next spring!

If I wanted to plant squash next year, not likely, I could choose a different spot and keep the squash plants covered with a floating row cover. However,  the consensus is that prevention is the best answer. Weekly applications of insecticidal soap have been found effective. Also Btk, Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, an organic compound found in t he soil can be used regularly. When larva eat this they die.  You can spray with Btk weekly or wipe down  the stems with Btk or insecticidal soap weekly.

I had visions of tons of squash I could bring to the Center for Self Reliance, but that does not seem likely. However,  I’ll be ready if I plant squash next year. Right now that is a big IF.

A.R.T.S. and Earth-Kind Rose Trials

Michael Schwartz photo 2Recently I met with Michael Schwartz at the Naugatuck Valley Community College in  Connecticut to visit the rose trial gardens of both Earth-Kind roses and the newer organization A.R.T.S. trials. The American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S.) was founded in 2012 when the All America Rose Selections (AARS) closed its doors. Schwartz is the trial director of both gardens, as well as the current president of the A.R.T.S. organization.

Earth-Kind roses have been around for a number of years under a program run by Texas A&M AgriLife and Extension. There are now Earth-Kind trial gardens in several locations in Texas and in several states as different as Maine, Mississippi and California. Canada, New Zealand and India also have Earth-Kind rose trials. The goal of all these sites is to identify the roses that thrive with low-input conditions which means pest and disease resistance and needing less irrigation and fertilizer.

Chamblee’s Rose Nursery has a number of Earth-Kind roses that are familiar to gardeners including The Fairy, Belinda’s Dream and Carefree Beauty.


American Rose Trials for Sustainability or A.R.T.S.

The  11 A.R.T.S. trial gardens across the country are working to provide objective, accurate and reliable information about the cultivars that are tested to identify the most disease and pest resistant, and the most garden worthy cultivars. No fungicides, insecticides or miticides are used in the trial gardens. Each garden also includes Carefree Beauty and the Original Knockout rose, to use as reference points for the growth and condition of the trial roses.

Schwartz gave me a tour of both test gardens. In the A.R.T.S. test garden I admired the roses planted this year, and roses planted last year. They showed a lot of growth in only two years. I also got to see Peachy Knock Out; Ice Cap, a double white shrub rose; and Double 10, a riotous orange tea rose, all of which won four regional awards, and earned the name Master Rose. These roses are the first A.R.T.S. winners and will come on the market in 2018. Watch for them.

Peachy Knock Out Rose

Peachy Knock Out Rose A.R.T.S. Master Rose for 2018

Those three roses are not the only A.R.T.S. roses that will be available next spring. Also watch for Farruca Courtyard, a compact climber with double red blossoms; BougainFeelYa, a compact spreading shrub with single red blossoms, and Apple Dapple a blush pink shrub rose, both from the Look Alikes series; and Petaluma a semi-double orange-pink shrub rose. These colors are all luscious!

The system for evaluating the test results has been a lot of work, but now that the results can be handled electronically the process is more thorough and much easier. In addition to quantifying disease resistance and such, rose marketers know that fragrance, mature growth habit, and length of season bloom are important. These qualities are taken into consideration as well. The final question Schwartz said “tries to account for the X-factor which is – do you like the rose? That takes a subjective evaluation, but it’s important. It’s hard to quantify beauty, but we tried.”

Earth Kind Trial roses

Earth Kind roses in NVCC Trial Gardens. I’d love either one, preferably both, of these roses

After visiting the A.R.T.S. trials Schwartz walked me across the campus, past the Biblical Garden, the Teaching Garden and a collection of some of  the maple tree varieties that are part of the college’s Tamarack Arboretum to view the Earth-Kind rose trials. This large trial garden is located on a steep terraced hillside, with each terrace devoted to one year’s roses. There is no way I was going to slide down the narrow hillside path to wander through this lush rose garden, but it was an amazing site in its entirety, even if it didn’t make for a great photo. It is clear that the Earth-Kind list of low maintenance roses will include new cultivars in the near future.

Schwartz and I spent some time in the Zinser Rose Garden talking about the college, its roses and the two year horticulture, and horticulture and landscape design programs. The rose garden is named after the beloved Professor Zinser who taught mathematics. Here we were surrounded by a number of hardy, easy care roses like the romantic Blushing Knock Out, Teasing Georgia, a striking yellow rose, and Nearly Wild, with pink/white single blossoms.

Schwartz told me that there have been a number of companies and rose gardens that have disappeared over the past few years. In this modern world too many gardeners were finding too many roses too much trouble to grow and fuss over. Roses had such a reputation for requiring a lot of work and chemicals that many gardeners never even tried to grow roses in their garden.

The Earth Kind and A.R.T.S. trials will be giving gardeners the information to choose beautiful and low maintenance roses to make up a successful rose garden.

Double 10 rose, available in 2018

Double 10, Master Rose, in A.R.T.S trial for 2018

Several years ago I met Peter Kukielski, then curator 0f the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden and he told me that he often had to assure gardeners whose roses died. He’d tell them “you are not the problem. It is the roses that are the problem.” He went on to write Roses Without Chemicals: 150 disease free varieties that will change the way you grow roses. Kukielski was the first president of the A.R.T.S trials and worked to identify more strong and beautiful roses for gardeners.

I wonder which one of the A.R.T.S. roses I will plant next year?

Between the Rows    July 1, 2017

Daylily Festival on Pickett Lane, Greenfield

Daylily Festival on Pickett Lane

Daylily Festival on Pickett Lane

It’s time for the Annual Daylily Festival at 23 Picket Lane in Greenfield. There will be vendors selling their arts and crafts as well. The garden opens at 9 am and the Festival will close at 4 pm.

Visitors can walk through the woods that Richard Willard has been clearing and weeding for several years, or you an take a buggy ride out to the daylily fields. Daylilies are marvelous plants, beautiful in many shades and colors and they not only tolerate drought, they are very happy in the wet. If you are building a rain garden daylilies will make it bloom. I know they will thrive in our flood plain. I’m including a very few of the daylilies I saw  today. Come on Saturday and decide which ones will brighten up your garden, and never cause you any trouble at all.


Daylily – blooms in July


Lavender daylily

Lavender daylily

Ruffled daylily

Ruffled daylily

Brilliant colors as well as pastels

Brilliant colors as well as pastels

Red and gold daylily

Red and gold daylily

Not all daylilies have the same petals.

Not all daylilies have the same petals.

Don’t forget! Saturday, July 8, 9-4 pm on Pickett Lane in Greenfield! Get an early bloomer, a mid-season bloomer and a late bloomer and have glory all summer long.

Wedding Disaster

During the Master Gardeners tour of beautiful gardens, we came upon a young couple  with their photographer taking historic photographs under the tranquil shade of old trees. The groom was handsome and  the  bridge was beautiful and wearing  a gorgeous wedding dress with delicate lace and a train. The photographer had endless directions for the happy couple – please kiss – now, bride, look demure – now look adoringly at each other. All was going swimmingly, although I was worried about the train being trailed along the rough path.

rosy wedding arch

Rosy wedding arch

While romantic photographs were being taken down the path, florists were putting  the finishing touches on a romantic rose bedecked arch, the perfect place for wedding vows to be taken.

Bridesmaids in waiting

Bored bridesmaids in waiting

The florists had work to do, but the bridesmaids could only wait to take  their part in the celebration.



The cooling zephyrs that had been so pleasant gave a whoosh – and disaster! Catastrophe! The startled bridesmaids fled, the florist got on the emergency phone and the rosy arch lay in pieces on the ground.

Disaster continues

Disaster continues

The pieces had to be picked up. Consultations with headquarters.

More photos - with the Bridal Party

More photos – with the Bridal Party

But in the face of disaster, what can the celebrants do?  Carry on, of course. The photographer has more orders to give, and the bride and groom more memories to make.  I can’t help thinking of the stories they will have on their anniversaries – and wonder whether they will have all florist charges forgiven.

Annuals for Bloom all Season

Blue Eyed osteospurmum
Blue-eyed osteospurmum on the Bridge of Flowers

Until I began working on the Bridge of Flowers committee some years ago, I never realized how important annuals are to having a really flowery garden all season. Those of us who have perennial gardens accept that most perennials are in bloom for only three weeks or so. With deadheading and pruning we might be able to get a second flush of bloom. With careful planning, we can create a design that will always have something in bloom, but there may not be a lot in bloom at any one moment.

I was talking to a friend recently and she said she had been planting lots of potted baby annuals and was off to see what else might still be available at the Farmer’s Coop. She felt she needed all the annuals she could get because she likes constant bloom in her garden, but she also likes to pick lots of colorful flowers for bouquets in her house and to give to her friends.

Annuals are in evidence everywhere in the spring as local merchants put out big pots of bright geraniums, or the greatly improved petunias that now come in wild colors and no longer need deadheading. My neighbors have been known to hang pots of graceful annuals. In my youth I admired hanging pots of begonias which I thought were beautiful and exotic. I never dared to think of trying to plant such a pot myself. Nowadays frames for hanging pots and fibrous mats for holding soil in the pot are abundant in every garden center. There are also new varieties like Proven Winner Nonstop Mocca begonias with lovely double blossoms that look so much like roses in an array of colors. You can plant them in hanging baskets or in pots for the patio.



In my own garden I often plant petunias in containers. Today’s petunias are not the petunias I picked in my grandmother’s garden. Modern petunias going by the name Wave Petunias and Supertunias can provide a full season of lush bloom in many colors. The difference between these two varieties is that the Wave type will spread and cover an area of soil densely and cut down on weeds. Supertunias work better in a hanging basket because they produce long vines.

Both Wave and Supertunias need to be fertilized every week or two. This is vital to keep them both blooming, and all potted plants need to be watered every day, and perhaps more often if there is a heat wave.

Who doesn’t love a daisy?  There are many daisy-like flowers. One of the most popular right now is the family of osteospurmums. A lot of name for a simple flower in some outrageous colors. They can be grown in the soil or in pots. Regular watering is essential for annuals even if they are planted in the ground.

Love lies bleeding

Love lies bleeding

Once I was visiting the stunning Wave Hill gardens overlooking the Hudson River in the Bronx, New York. Many flowers were familiar and beautiful, and suddenly I came upon this astonishing plant with deep red dripping blooms. I had never seen anything like it. It was a surprise, but when I located its name tag I was further astounded – love lies bleeding. It was so shockingly apt – and there in an elegant and romantic flower bed. It took me some years before I could think about including it in my own garden, but I do now appreciate its unusual beauty. Love lies bleeding is an amaranth and it has larger cousins that are edible grains.

Sweet peas

Sweet Peas

Sweet peas are not edible, but this is a lovely annual vine that climbs with many forms and colors. Renee’s Garden offers 27 sweet pea varieties that include windowbox sweet peas that are happy in a container.

Since the point of annuals is that they bloom into the fall I must mention dahlias. The Bridge of Flowers includes many dahlias in its plantings that bloom from summer until frost. There are any number of colors and flower forms but they are all gorgeous. Dahlias grow from a tuber that can be potted up and started in the spring, giving them a headstart for when they can be planted in the ground. For every tuber planted, the gardener will harvest four or five new tubers when frost has killed the plant for the year. They can be stored for planting the following spring.

A visit to the Bridge of Flowers will give you a sampling of the varieties available.



I love cosmos with its airy foliage and tender colors of pink and white. Even just a six pack of seedlings will ultimately take over a large space in the garden and make a substantial display, even when they are routinely snipped to make a dining table bouquet.

Another favorite of mine is the very familiar zinnia, brilliant and bold colors, or paler shades. Renee’s Garden even offers a bright white zinnia, and the Green Envy zinnia that is a stunning chartreuse color and a great addition to any bouquet. Florists are always looking for green flowers that can set off the bright colors in an arrangement.



Though annuals will only last for one season, to get the lush growth you are looking for they should be planted with as much care as any perennial. The planting bed should be prepared and enriched by adding compost. If you are just planting individual plants to fill a space it is good practice to add a scoop of compost to that planting hole. Regular watering is important when plants are getting started. All potted annuals will need daily watering, and periodic fertilizing to keep blooming well.

Between the Rows   June 24, 2017

Theme Gardens of All Kinds

Dumbarton Oaks Pebble Garden

Dumbarton Oaks Pebble Garden

In 1982 I bought Theme Gardens by Barbara Damrosch, a book that promised how to plan, plant, and grow 16 gloriously different gardens. My eye was immediately caught by the idea of a garden for old roses.

In the spring of 1982 we were embarking on only our third year in Heath where we had a big lawn in front of the house and planted a big vegetable garden. I had never given much thought to flowers except that I had been consumed by a desire for a few old fashioned roses.

During our first Heath spring I planted Passionate Nymph’s Thigh in front of the house. I was entranced by its name, but the French called it Cuisse de Nymphe and the more staid British called it Maiden’s Blush. The Passionate Nymph is a perfect Alba rose, blushing pink with a delicious perfume and blue grey foliage. She also has amazing vigor and stamina which kept her blooming after 35 harsh Heath winters.

Theme Gardens inspired me to think about a whole rose garden – an ambitious thought since I was working and my time and my rose budget were limited. A rose garden holding dozens of roses was not in the cards, but I began planting. The Rose Walk  did eventually have more than 60 roses. I was always an organic gardener and my choices were mostly old roses because they tended to be hardy and disease resistant. Unfortunately not Japanese beetle resistant, but I soon came close to conquering that problem with applications of milky spore disease.

Passionate Nymph's Thigh

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh

Damrosch designed many other gardens with different themes: a colonial garden, a secret garden, a Zen garden, and a butterfly garden which is currently enjoying a new vogue. She was not the first to think of theme gardens. Gardeners often talk about their herb gardens, or their white gardens or some other featured design element.

Gardeners come at these theme gardens from different angles. C.L. Fornari thinks gardens are for socializing as well as for private enjoyment. She wrote The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining.  The first necessity for such a garden is a place for a table and chairs. The evening entertainment may certainly include a stroll through the garden, drink in hand, but for myself, at the end of the day I am also looking forward to a comfortable chair and a view of the garden with no desire to jump up and pull a few more weeds.

Fornari talks about the elements of that enjoyment from fragrant plants like honeysuckle vines and daphne shrubs. She particularly likes Daphne x translantica ‘Summer Ice’ that has variegated foliage and blooms through the summer and into the fall.

As the shadows deepen the gardener will find delight with white plants that glow in the dark. We have a dappled willow in our new garden and it is always lovely, but especially in the evening when the light is low and the swath of pale foliage (this is a big shrub) lights up its corner. Smaller white flowers include white petunias, white David phlox, the stunning big hardy white hibiscus ‘Blue River II’ as well as the moonflower vine. Even the humble zinnia comes in shades of white.

Nowadays it is also easy to add real light to the evening garden through the magic of solar lamps and lanterns.

No one would talk about a cocktail garden without providing recipes for drinks, alcoholic or not, and Fornari does not fail us.

Mount Vernon Lower Garden

Mount Vernon Lower Garden

Another way of thinking of theme gardens is to think of “garden rooms.” Garden rooms usually have a theme but they are also usually separated from each other by real walls, hedges or shrubbery. Recently, during a trip to Washington, D.C., we visited George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, with its house and gardens overlooking the Potomac River. Martha Washington was in charge of the Lower Garden, a large garden that produced bountiful harvests for all who lived on the estate. The Upper Garden was a pleasure garden that included artistically trimmed boxwood hedges in a fleur de lis design, an homage to General Lafayette, who was such a help during the Revolution. Yet, even here there were fruit trees and vegetables planted behind the floriferous borders around each garden.

The Botanical Garden, a very small garden, is said to have been especially dear to Washington because here he could try out new seeds, bulbs and cuttings that governments and friends sent him and where he could perform  his own horticultural experiments.

We also visited a more modern garden made up of garden rooms. Robert Woods Bliss, a wealthy and important American diplomat, and his wife Mildred, bought Dumbarton  Oaks in 1920 and ultimately gave it to Harvard University. They created many rooms including a Rose Garden, a Kitchen Garden, a Forsythia Dell, the Lilac Circle and others. I was particularly taken by the Pebble Garden.

The term PebbleGarden describes very little about this garden which is more than a space holding plants. The so-called pebbles are the stones that turn the large courtyard into a mosaic, a work of art. The stone walls are covered with wisteria and provide shady spaces for sitting, admiring the garden and listening to the fountain at the northern end of the garden.

My theme is mostly water tolerant plants. Send me an email at commonweeder@gmail.com and tell me about your theme garden.

Between the Rows   June 17, 2017


Dogwoods – Trees and Shrubs

Kousa dogwood

Kousa dogwood

With its long lasting flowers the dogwood is one of the iconic trees of early spring. On my street there are two beautiful dogwoods, Cornus florida, a native species. We are fortunate to have these trees because in the past this species has battled anthracnose, the most deadly fungus that can attack dogwoods.

The response to the dying off of many native dogwoods is the rise of Kousa dogwood, a Japanese species. The flower is very similar but the tree blooms a bit later in the spring. Both native and Kousa dogwoods are categorized as small trees, which means they will attain a height between 15 and 30 feet with an equal spread. Thirty feet does not seem very small to me.

These two dogwood species produce similar long blooming flowers, but the ‘flowers’ are actually white or pinkish bracts surrounding the very tiny true flowers in the center. There is an old legend that says Satan tried to climb over the wall that surrounded Eden to knock the flowers off Adam’s favorite tree, the dogwood. However, he fell and since the blossoms were in the shape of a cross, all he managed to do was take a tiny bite out of the petals. That bite is recognizable today.

Both species also have good fall color with shades of pink and red, and they produce berries that attract the birds.

Kousa dogwood flowers

Kousa dogwood flowers – closeup

I considered planting a native or Kousa dogwood in my new garden, but gave up the idea because I decided that it is too wet for dogwoods to thrive. These trees do enjoy some shade, and moist but well drained soil, but I feared that our floods would be fatal.

Although the dogwood trees don’t like water, dogwood shrubs don’t seem to mind at all. One of the first large shrubs I planted in the garden in the summer of 2015 was the yellow twig dogwood. This multi-stemmed shrub will reach a height and width of five or six feet and has grown energetically for us. I wanted this shrub because the yellow stems attract a lot of attention in the winter and spring. It’s a true glory when the sun is shining on it. I planted Cornus sericea  Flaviramea  right where I can see it from my kitchen window.

Yellow twig dogwoods are so water tolerant that they can be used as part of a rain garden planting which means they can stand periodic flooding and full time dampness.

I was so happy with the yellow twig that last year I bought two more dogwood shrubs. Many people are familiar with the red twig dogwood, Cornus sanguinea. It will attain the size and stature of the yellow twig but the stems are a very definite red. I saw a house with a red twig dogwood hedge once during the winter. It was nicely pruned and quite elegant.

The second new dogwood shrub is an osier Cornus sericea. The word osier threw me. It brought to mind certain willows with very flexible stems that could be cut while young to make baskets and furniture. I wondered whether the osier cornus could be used the same way. I have not yet made that determination

I was also confused because this was a C. sericea like the Flaviramea, but it was not a stunning yellow, nor was it red, but rather a mixture. The horticultural world is not always easy to understand. However this species is also extremely water tolerant and it has become the tallest and most upright of my dogwood shrubs. It must like its wet spot, next to a planting of primroses that are also happy in the wet. These three shrubs benefit from cutting back some of the stems every two or three years to keep the color vivid.

All three of these dogwoods have similar flowers. They lack the showy bracts of the trees. They have small flat-topped clusters of tiny true flowers that are not showy at all. However, in the fall small drupes replace the flowers. Drupes is a new word for me. – easily defined. Drupes are a stone fruit, with a fleshy outer part surrounding the pit. Peaches, plums cherries and other stone fruits are drupes.

Pagoda dogwood blossoms

Pagoda dogwood blossoms

The final cornus in my planting is a pagoda dogwood, Cornus alternifolia. This is another small dogwood tree, but it has flowers and drupes just like the shrubs. No show off bracts.  The alternifolia in its name refers to the leaves which appear alternately on the stems instead of opposite each other on other cornus species.

My desire for this tree is because of the fairly horizontal arrangement of its branches much like the levels in a pagoda. I love the sculptural arrangement, but I know it will take some regular pruning to urge it on to its best form. I am not a great pruner but I am ready to accept the challenge.

I want to make a final small mention of the low growing Cornus canadensis otherwise known as bunchberry, bearberry or any one of several names including plain dwarf dogwood. It is easily recognizable as a dogwood by its foliage and the white bracts surrounding its true flowers. The only difference is its petite size. It creeps along the ground, only eight inches high and spreading two or three feet. Birds eat the red berries in the fall and spread the seeds elsewhere.

The interesting thing about bunchberry is the force with which its flower buds bend back and the anthers spring forward in less than a millisecond and throw the pollen into the air and surrounding garden at more than two thousand times the force of gravity. I don’t know how anyone ever saw or measured this phenomenon but you can find videos on YouTube.###

Between the Rows   May 27, 2017


Progression of Spring

Progression of Spring - April Fool snow

Progression of Spring – April Fool snow

The progression of spring is one of magisterial slowness. The April Fool snow did have the advantage of showing us where we could expect the spring flood to appear.

April 18, 2017

April 18, 2017

The snow didn’t last too long and it didn’t even look that wet anymore in mid-April. The slow progression of spring.

May 14, 2017 - Flood

May 14, 2017 – Flood

There were considerable rains  which started things greening up, but also brought the flood. This shows the progression of spring took a leap, but then stepped back for a rest.

May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017

In spite of the rains which leave the area around the shed underwater, it looks like spring is firmly ensconced throughout most of the garden. The primroses have loved the rain and welcomed new plants from the Bridge of Flowers and Greenfield Garden Club plant sales.  The lilacs have gone by but the roses are budding up nicely. It looks like OSO Easy Paprika will be the  first to bloom

OSO Easy Paprika

OSO Easy Paprika

Now, if the progression of spring would just take us into the sunshine. I am expecting a BOOM! of blossom.

Cutting Back and Glorious Shade

Cutting Back

Cutting Back by

Cutting Back, and Glorious Shade are two new books that held a particular appeal to me. For me Japanese gardens and shade gardens share an atmosphere of serenity and calm. There is no rushing, no ecstatic clamor at the brilliance of blossoms; there is a quiet peacefulness when you are strolling through a wild woodland garden or an artful Japanese garden. Both types of garden use design to emulate the beauty of nature in different ways.

In Cutting Back: My apprenticeship in the gardens of Kyoto by Leslie Buck (Timber Press $24.95) Buck gives us a memoir of the six months she spent in Japan working six days a week in every weather with expert gardeners.

Once we are in our mid-30s, most of us cannot imagine turning back to the beginning by presenting ourselves as a novice welcoming criticism and instruction. And yet, this is what Buck did. As a garden designer in the San FranciscoBay area she loved Japanese gardens and worked in them, but wanted to learn from the masters in Japan. She left her work and friends and without arranging a job in Japan she left California. She was amazingly fortunate because she did land a job with an elite Japanese landscaping company.

When you go to a foreign country to take a job the experience is as much about adjusting to a different culture as it is to learning or refining skills. As a woman Buck was an unlikely member of an all male crew, taking her place in the lowest rank. She is the first woman to train in Japan with this company. The Japanese aesthetic is to create a landscape that looks completely natural, but this requires gardeners with an artistic eye, fine pruning skills and patience to attend to every detail of a garden down to cleaning pebble paths. Buck, with her minimal fluency in Japanese, found all this challenging, exhausting and sometimes disheartening, but she was also inspired by the gardeners in her crew and appreciative of their teachings.

Cutting Back describes the work and skills of a Japanese crew, but it is not a how-to book in any sense except possibly the joy ultimately found when you cast aside your fears and move on to fulfill a dream.

Leslie Buck had a dream, but she already had an aesthetic education. She has a degree from the University of California, Berkeley and attended the Bordeaux School of Fine Arts in France. She has taken to heart the Japanese worker’s creed that to become a master you must continually practice and you must teach. She has worked, taught and volunteered in hundreds of private landscapes and many public gardens including the PortlandJapaneseGarden and the gardens at TassajaraZenCenter.

Glorious Shade: Dazzling Plants, Design Ideas and Proven Techniques for Your Shade Garden by Jenny Rose Carey (Timber Press $24.95) will give you new ways to look at shade in your garden. I certainly have moved from thinking of shade as some static thing that has only a single quality to appreciating the many facets and changeability of shade.

Glorious Shade by Carey

Glorious Shade by Jenny Rose Carey

Glorious Shade begins with chapters on the Shades of Shade and Gardener’s Calendar, reminding us that shade is not static but varying over the seasons, even over the course of a day, and that green foliage is not a single shade either. The book is heavily illustrated with beautiful and instructional photographs.

The third chapter Down and Dirty focuses on the intertwined, underground world of soil and roots, a world that is getting more and more attention. Nowadays we are fortunate to be learning more  about soil and roots, and worlds of life that we never knew about before. We all become better gardeners when we pay attention to the most basic part of our gardens – the soil.

Planting for Success gives us those techniques and schedules for maintaining a garden over time.

Designing in the Shadows gives us many bright ideas for gardening in the shade with ideas on how the many types of shade can be used to create the areas of calm and peace that I welcome.

The next 150 pages begin with information about layering the garden, trees, shrubs, perennials, and then provides one of the best plant lists I have ever seen. From trees and shrubs: Aesculus parviflora (buckeye) and Aesculus pavia to Viburnam tinus; vines from Aristolochia marophylla (Dutchman’s pipe) to Passiflora caerulea; ferns from Adiantum, (maidenhair fern) to Polystichum setiferum; and Perennials from Aconitum carmichaelii to Viola labradorica, our common American violet. There is also a short list for tropicals and annuals.

These lists are comprehensive including information about the different cultivars of a single species, including growing zone, depth of shade, need for water, and height and spread of plant. There is also more specific information about each species or cultivar than is usually given in more general plant lists. This gives the gardener a fuller understanding of a plant’s requirements.

Carey is the director of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University which includes shade gardens as does her own Northview garden shown in her blog.. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, NPR, the Pennsylvania Gardener and other publications.

Between the Rows  May 20, 2017

Herb Garden for Savor and Beauty

Herb seedlings

Herb seedlings are available everywhere – Rosemary, parsley and basil

Why have an herb garden? Simon and Garfunkel sang about parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, increasing their fame, but this 17th century song just begins to touch on the herbs that can easily be grown by gardeners. Herb gardens are ideal for a novice gardener to tackle and a rich resource for the cook.

To begin all you need is a sunny space with ordinarily fertile soil. You can plant herbs in your vegetable garden or you can make a very pretty herb garden devoted to culinary, or ornamental herbs. My own small herb garden is located along the house foundation and right outside the kitchen door.

Parsley is treated as an annual herb, although it is actually a biennial. With a little luck it will come back its second spring, but will rapidly go to seed which is why most of us plant fresh seed, or buy new seedlings every year. Most people will recognize the two types of parsley, the flat leaved variety which has the best flavor for cooking, and the curly leaved type. I have grown parsley from seed indoors, but it is very slow to germinate. In some areas of England it is said that parsley must visit the devil seven times before it will germinate.

Parsley has been used in the past for many medicinal reasons but today only its power as a diuretic, and its nutritional value that is acknowledged. So remember that all the parsley you use in cooking is adding vitamins as well as flavor and a pretty garnish to your dishes. Parsley makes a pretty edging for an herb garden, or any garden.



Sage, a perennial herb, was considered a general heal-all while preserving the memory and lifting depression Today it mostly used in the kitchen to flavor recipes including eggs, chicken, lamb, polenta and in stuffings with onions and apples.

Sage is a foot tall perennial that can be grown outside in our area, although over time the stems will become woody and you might want to replace it with a new plant. The texture of the foliage is velvety. The common Salvia officinalis is tender gray-green but there are also purple and golden salvias. It is an essential plant in the herb garden, but it is also a good addition to the ornamental garden.

Rosemary is tender in our region. In the past I have dug up my rosemary and potted it for a winter inside the house. I kept it in a cool room and kept it watered. It came through the winters but was always happy to be back outdoors once spring was fully in charge.

Sometimes I put my rosemary plant right in the ground for the summer, but I often have it grow in a beautiful pot which gives it more presence in the garden.

There are many varieties of thyme. I have only grown the common Thymus vulgaris. This is a low growing and wonderfully spready herb. Here in my new garden I have it growing in front of a low stone wall to make a thyme path and consider it a cousin to the English thyme lawn. In fact, in Heath where our lawn had very dry spots I planted thinnings from the thyme near the house. Those thinnings took root and spread. I did not have whole thyme lawn but it was an important element in the lawn which included dandelions, violets, clover, hawkweeds and other nameless flowering weeds creating what I called my flowery mead.

A busy friend of mine placed a sun dial in her lawn and then surrounded it with varieties of thyme. I don’t know what varieties she had but I have seen gardens with Mother of Thyme which is only three inches tall, silvery wooly thyme only one inch tall, and Elfin thyme which will rarely reach one inch, making a very flat mat. My friend just wanted to be able to say that she had all the time in the world.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are essential herbs in my kitchen, but they are not alone.

Dill and chives didn’t get songs, but they are also essential. I would grow dill even if I never used it in my cooking because I love the fragrance. It always reminds me of my childhood on the shores of Lake Champlain where my grandmother occasionally held a shrimp fest – all the shrimp (cooked with dill) that the extended family could eat. Dill is also a great pollinator plant.



Dill is an annual, but it can hardly help seeding itself.

Chives are a perennial and the clump will get bigger every year. It is one of the earliest plants to come up in my garden. I can start harvesting the grassy, oniony foliage in early April. Late in the spring it will blossom and those blossoms are a pretty addition to a salad.

Ever since pesto became a staple in our kitchens, basil, an annual, has become a necessity. There is the big leafed Genovese basil I began with, but now there is any number of basils including Thai basil, lemon, cinnamon, Greek dwarf, dark purple opal, and Holy basil. They are delicious in a variety of ways in the kitchen and their different forms make them striking in the garden.

Whether you are a serious cook or not, herbs are a hardy and lovely addition to any garden. Most garden centers sell seedlings and you can set up an herb garden very quickly.

Between the Rows   April 22, 2017