Dear Friend and Gardener

Tulips on the Bridge of Flowers

Tulips on the Bridge of Flowers

Tulips on the Bridge of Flowers

Tulips are not currently blooming on the Bridge of Flowers, but the BOF committee has already been planning the Annual Plant Sale which will be held on Saturday, May 14, the weekend after Mother’s Day. Tulips will not be for sale, but I think you can count on lots of other desirable and healthy plants that will waiting for you to make up your mind.

Forget me nots

Forget me nots

Don’t forget the date! Saturday, May 14, 2016.  I really enjoy thinking about spring flowers at this grey time of year.

Applause for Annuals


Cosmos 'Xanthos'

Cosmos ‘Xanthos’

Every year new annuals show up in the catalogs and garden centers. These new plants may get us thinking about ways we can design our plantings, help us find flowers that will thrive in challenging situations, or help support pollinators. I will list a few of these new annual flower varieties that I found particularly appealing. The first place I check to see what is new is the All America Plant Selections website. Many of us have noticed the little red, white and blue logo on some seed packets denoting that they are AAS Selections, plant varieties that have been tested in gardens across the country to find flowers and vegetables that can be grown in home gardens successfully.

Geranium 'Brocade Fire'

All America Selection Geranium ‘Brocade Fire’

Geraniums are a common and beloved flower that blooms in pots and hanging baskets all summer long. A new geranium (or more properly pelargonium) varieties is Brocade Fire. The AAS has named this mounding plant with its splotched lime green foliage and unusual bright orange blossoms a national winner which means it will thrive anywhere in the US. Geraniums love the sun but Brocade Fire is tolerant of less than full sun and promises to take a fair amount of shade. Although I always think of geraniums as container plants, they can certainly be planted in the ground where you can worry less about watering. The secret to growing container plants successfully is a good schedule of generous watering and fertilizing. You will still need to remove spent blossoms of the geraniums.

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Lavender'

All America Selections Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Lavender’

The Salvia Summer Jewel Series has been winning the AAS award every time the series comes out with a new color, Summer Jewel Red in 2011, Summer Jewel Pink in 2012, Summer Jewel White in 2015 and now Summer Jewel Lavender. What all of these Summer Jewels have in common is their appeal to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. They are about 20 inches high and need full sun. Perfect for bedding borders, or containers.

Cosmos are one of those wonderful annuals that will bloom all summer long and into the fall requiring no particular care. There are several varieties in shades of pink and white with various petal forms. This year a new cosmos is Casanova, a dwarf that blooms in white, red, pink and pale violet with very compact growth for a very long season from spring to frost. Another new dwarf cosmos is Xanthos which is unusual because of its creamy yellow color. Both of these varieties will not be more than about 20 inches tall, are happy in containers, and like all cosmos will attract bees and butterflies to your garden

. Gardeners who have shade will be very familiar with wild impatiens with white blossoms or shades of pink and white. Now there is the Sunpatiens , a cross between the wild New Guinea impatiens and the wild variety. Sunpatiens do not need shade and thrive in full sun, even in hot and humid climates. They come in three growth habits: Compact which is 18-24 inches tall; Spreading with a mounding habit about 30 inches tall; and Vigorous which has a vase shape up to about 3 feet tall. The new Sunpatiens Spreading Clear Orange has striking color for three season bloom in all kinds of weather until frost. They have good resistance to downy mildew which has recently been a problem for the more familiar pastel impatiens.

Ipomea 'Split Second'

Ipomea ‘Split Second’

I love morning glories like the classic Heavenly Blue. My old Grandpa Ott with its deep purple blossoms self seeded itself for years and gladdened my heart well into the fall. This year Ipomea Split Second has come on the scene with her “peony-like blooms” of a heavenly pink and I don’t think I can resist.  I never even knew there were double morning glories. I am planning to order my seeds right away because these luscious flowers are expected to be very popular. Split Second has the vining habit you expect, climbing up to six feet and while it welcomes a good well drained soil, it can tolerate some drought and some damp. Its name, Split Second, is a hint that this is a very early blooming variety. It can be planted in a container or hanging basket, as well as in the ground. Wherever you plant it be sure to give it sufficient support.

When I was at a garden writers conference at the end of the summer in California we got to see some of the new plants that would be available in the spring. Everyone was asking “What is that flower cascading over the hanging pots?” It was Begonia boliviensis with graceful blossom-laden stems overflowing their pots. These bell-like begonia blossoms are quite simple, unlike lush tuberous begonias or even the delicate shade-loving wax begonias. Bees and hummingbirds love it. It will bloom all summer and into the fall, but a touch of frost means the end. Although begonias generally prefer shade, B. boliviensis San Francisco is a great plant for hanging baskets because it is more tolerant of sunnier spots, although some shade would be ideal. Hanging on my front porch perhaps?

Annuals are an important element in almost every garden providing masses of color over a long season. Many of these no longer need constant deadheading to keep blooming.

Between the Rows   January 9, 2016

Winter Dreams – Siberian Iris

Siberian Irises

Nameless Siberian irises

Today I have chosen to think about the beardless Siberian iris. It is such a cold, gray winter day that I needed to think about something cheerful, that presents no problems. The Siberian iris family fills the bill.

When I say they present no problems I am also saying that I have good conditions for these beautiful irises. I have acid soil, and while they can take dry periods well, they welcome generous water. In Heath there was always rain in the early spring which is the most vital time for the growth of the Siberian iris. It takes a good soil and adequate water to grow that foliage and set flowers. Mulching will also support their growth.

Siberian irises mostly bloom in shades of blue, purple and white, but there are some unusual hybrids. ‘Solar Energy’ appears with shades of yellow and ‘Sandy River Belle’ is pale pink with a splash of yellow at the center. You get a sense of the range of color by browsing through  a catalog like Schreiners Iris Gardens. I found an amazing array of Siberian irises in Beardless Irises: A Plant for Every Garden Situation by Kevin C. Vaughn.

I do not have any Siberians with unusual colors, but I love the blues and white. However spring will come, and I very well may need more Siberian irises.

Siberian irises

Siberian irises in the Heath field

I don’t know how  these irises got into the edge of our field, but I think they continue to thrive with great exuberance because this is a wet spot.

White Siberian Iris

Nameless white Siberian iris

The white Siberians have been growing among the increasing weeds around the dug well behind the Heath house. These are tough plants – and a pleasure to think about on a dull winter day.

Did I Mention the New Garden is Wet?

January 10-2016

January 10-2016  1p.m.

Sunday. It is raining! The abnormally warm temperatures are melting our one snowfall, and now it is raining. My husband cleared away the storm drain on our road and he is now investigating the liklihood of helping the drainage in the backyard. Our newly planted lasagna beds did raise the beds slightly and I think the photo gives you a hint that they are surrounded by water. The water is the deepest at the western end of the garden where we continue to think about hugelkultur beds. We even have the promise of some cut down tree trunks that we can put to  good use in those planned huglekultur beds. Keep watching during the march into spring..

January 10, 2016  3 p.m.

January 10, 2016 3 p.m.

The rain has been  torrential. Even though we can see the water is moving into a (slow) drain, it has gotten deeper. I think these photos will be helpful in the spring when we are trying to find ways, including hugelkultur, to manage the rains. Right now, Tuesday, I am wondering how long we’ll have to wait before we can go ice skating.

If you want to think of warmer and prettier things, I want to remind you all that my book The Roses at the End of the Road is on sale all this month for $10 with free shipping. Just send an email to to order with your mailing address. You can read a sample chapter here.

Review of the Garden(s) of 2015

View from the bedroom window  on January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015 in Heath

The photos I took of the view from the bedroom window make it easy for me to create a review the garden(s) in 2015. When January 1 dawned in Heath there had been snow falls, notably the great Thanksgiving 2014 blizzard,  but things looked bright. On that New Year’s Day we were also considering a move to Greenfield which we had been pondering for a couple of years.

View from the bedroom window February 5, 2015

View from the bedroom window February 5, 2015

This was the view for most of February in 2015. Snow and snow and snow. Frigid temperatures and wind most of the time.

View from the bedroom window March 4, 2015

View from the bedroom window March 4, 2015

February just wouldn’t leave  and this view did not change substantially all  month. The only color was down at Smith College and  the annual spring Bulb Show.

View from the bedroom window April 10, 2015

View from the bedroom window April 10, 2015

April brought some snow melt, but it also brought ice!

View from the Bedroom window April 12, 2015

View from the Bedroom window April 12, 2015

And yet only two days later it looked like winter’s back was finally broken. There were additional snow flurries and cover, but we felt spring had arrived. And we were seriously looking at houses in Greenfield.

View from the bedroom window May 17, 2015

View from the bedroom window May 17, 2015

Lilac season arrived in the middle of May – as is traditional. Apple blossoms everywhere.   By the end of May we were the proud owners of a smaller house on a much much smaller property in Greenfield.

View from the window June 21, 2014

View from the window June 21, 2014

We were immediately so busy, including getting ready for the Annual Rose Viewing, that  I never even took a photo of the June view in 2015, but there wasn’t much change from 2014.  The Rose Viewing was held in the rain! The magic was broken. I always said it never rained on the Rose Viewing, at least not between the hours of 1 and 4 pm, but on June 28, 2015 there was rain!

The new Greenfield garden June 3, 2015

The new Greenfield garden June 3, 2015

One of the reasons we were so busy in June was we immediately began planting the new Greenfield Garden. We began with shrubs, hydrangeas, lilacs and viburnams on the southside of the house. We also planted the Hellstrip in front of the house. Everywhere we used the lasagna method of planting in our poor soil.


South border in Greenfield garden, July 6, 2015

South border in Greenfield garden, July 6, 2015

July was a busy month of setting up lasagna beds and starting to move the 10 yards of compost and loam to ameliorate the dense clay soil. New shrubs came into bloom, and so did some of the perennials moved down from Heath.

View from the Greenfield window July 6, 2015

View from the Greenfield window July 6, 2015

With the help of landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy’s Home Outside Palette app, we also started planting shrub beds in the back yard.

View from the bedroom window July 1, 2015

View from the bedroom window July 1, 2015

The only July photo of the Heath landscape shows that we were keeping up with lawn mowing. My husband is dreaming of a Greenfield garden that will need no mowing within two years. He is putting us on a fast track of garden building.

View from the bedroom window August 23, 2015

View from the bedroom window August 23, 2015

By the end of August we think we have a buyer. We keep mowing the lawn.

A new fence in Greenfield August 8, 2015

A new fence in Greenfield August 8, 2015

In the meantime we had a fence installed along half of  the edge of our neighbor’s driveway. Gardens need infrastructure.

Heath blooms September 15, 2015

Heath blooms September 15, 2015

September arrives but the late summer garden is still in bloom in Heath, cosmos, japanese anemones and achillea “the Pearl’. These will stand in for all the other blooms in Heath.

Wood aster in Greenfield, September 15,  2015

Wood aster in Greenfield, September 15, 2015

Asters from Heath are now blooming in Greenfield, along with many other perennials including Alma Potchke aster, Joe Pye Weed, artemesia lactiflora, geums, and dahlias. Hydrangeas, too, of course.

Pink chrysanthemums October 15, 2015

Pink chrysanthemums October 15, 2015

These tough late-bloom pink mums are blooming in both Heath and Greenfield, as are the very late blooming Sheffield daisies.

As the bloom season ends a new chapter begins in our garden life as new owners take over End of the Road Farm. Will they change the name? That beautiful property is also going into a new chapter with an energetic family who have some wonderful ideas – and we are happy for them, and happy for ourselves who now only have one garden to devote ourselves to.

Everything changes! That has been my mantra for many months. And aren’t we lucky that all these recent changes have been good and happy ones.

Winter Finally Arrives

Winter finally arrived on December 29, 2015

Winter finally arrived on December 29, 2015

After weeks of mild weather and rain, winter finally arrived with sleet and icy snow. Fortunately the Christmas spirit is still strong as we march towards the New Year.

Merry Christmas and a Year of Happy Days

Our Christmas Tree 2015

Our Christmas Tree 2015

With all best wishes for joy in the new year.

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – December 15, 2015

Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus

On this Garden Blogger’s Bloom day I have a large Christmas cactus blooming and I think it looks very pretty in my new  peachy dining room. My amaryllis has already gone by and there are not other blooms. So I am off to see all the flowers in bloom across this great nation which you can see by  clicking here.

All this thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens.

We Have a Winner in the Giveaway!

Marjorie is the  winner of Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti AND The Roses at the End of the Road by yours truly. The books  will be in the mail as soon as I have your address.

Congratulations, Marjorie! I know you will enjoy the books.

Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso

Apple Lover's Cookbook

Appke Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso

Fall is a season of thanksgiving. One of the blessings of the season is a good harvest and this year there has been a spectacular apple harvest – indeed a spectacular fruit harvest of almost every kind. I gave thanks and celebrated with Amy Traverso, author of the The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, during the Cider Days apple tasting at Clarkdale Fruit Farm. I joined the crowd at Traverso’s table tasting her pretty Quick Bread and Butter Apple Pickles that were deliciously fresh and slightly sweet. I did buy her beautiful cookbook and spent the next couple of days admiring the stunning portraits of 59 apple varieties, as well as dishes like Squash and Apple Gratin. The Apple Lover’s Cookbook has recipes for every course from appetizers to desserts, but she also includes a taste of apple history and genetics before moving on to cooking techniques and equipment with a brisk charm. Traverso has spent most of her professional life cooking and publishing. She served as the food editor of Sunset and Boston magazines, and writes for other publications including the Boston Globe and Conde Nast Traveler.

Amy Traverso

Amy Traverso

Currently she is the senior food and home editor of Yankee Magazine where she is “responsible for all the food, home and gardening content in Yankee. I assign and edit stories and write and report stories myself. They might be profiles of interesting New Englanders or deep dives into seasonal ingredients.  I develop recipes and test all the recipes that other writers develop. And I edit recipes, which is very detail-oriented and anxiety-provoking work. A small error or omission and leave readers frustrated with a dish that didn’t work properly.” She shared a story about the time she was doing a cooking demonstration in a store when she made an omission in person. She put the dish together in front of her audience and then passed out samples of that dish that she had made a home. “As luck would have it, I completely left out the salt in the completed dish, which is what I used for samples. So everyone was tasting it and politely smiling, but didn’t seem terribly enthused about what I think of as a great dessert. When I tasted it, I knew why.”

I love cooking and I adhere to the Heath Gourmet Club motto that “a recipe is only a guide” but I have always been fascinated by people who actually make up new dishes on purpose, not only because they ran out of dill or spinach. When I asked Traverso about how she made up a recipe she said, “Some are pure invention, like the quick bread-and-butter apple pickle. That’s where you get this random idea—I wonder if apples would taste good in sweet pickle?—and head to the kitchen and experiment. But others are variations on classics, like apple pie. I happen to love my pie crust recipe, which I developed over time after trying a lot of different methods. For something more classic like that, I’ll look around at a lot of recipes and learn what I can from them before putting my own take on it. The International Association of Culinary Professionals has standards that it publishes to guide recipe developers on ethics—when you can fairly call a recipe your own. And I abide by those. But all cooks are building on the work of those who came before them.”

Although I think my father was a super-taster, able to name all the ingredients in a new dish set before him, I do not have that skill. Traverso didn’t think you really needed to be a super-taster to make up a recipe but “I do think you have to have a kind of taste sense—an intuition about flavors that go together—much like a painter has to have a kind of color sense. I’ve read that some super tasters actually run into problems because their senses are so finely attuned that flavors taste stronger to them, so their recipes might be calibrated differently, she said.

Below is her recipe for Quick Bread and Butter Apple Pickles using red skinned firm-sweet apples like Baldwin, Jazz and Melrose. She also likes a mandoline for making really thin slices of the apple and cucumber. The red and green skins look very pretty together. I have slightly shortened the directions because of space limitations.

Quick Bread and Butter Apple Pickles    from  The Apple Lover’s Cookbook

1 large seedless (English) cucumber, unpeeled

1 T. kosher salt (or only 1-1/2 t. table salt)

2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 lb) unpeeled and cut in half lengthwise

2 medium shallots

1 c. rice vinegar

½ c water

½ c honey

1 T. sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 sprig fresh tarragon, cut in four pieces

*Cut ends off cucumber and slice thin on a mandoline. Place in a colander and toss with salt. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. *Trim seeds and core from each apple half. Using a biscuit cutter push down into the apple to get two round cylinders. Thinly slice each cylinder on mandoline. Slice shallots on mandoline as well. Mix both in a bowl. *In a small bowl mix vinegar, water, honey, sugar and stir til sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon stick and tarragon. Pour over apples and shallots *Rinse cucumber in colander and blot dry. Add to bowl with apples and stir well. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Keeps in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

I think this would make for a delicious sweet/tart addition to the Thanksgiving menu.

Between the Rows   November 21, 2015