View from Mt. Philo Road
Late last week we drove up to Charlotte on Lake Champlain in Vermont. In 1939 my grandfather and Uncle Wally bought a 300 acre farm. Since then four generations have been attached to this piece of land, even though The Farm itself no longer exists. This is the view from Aunt Doris and Uncle Mike’s house. It was a rainy and foggy day when we arrived so you can’t quite see Lake Champlain, but you are looking down on land that Uncle Mike and his family farmed.
Charlotte Vermont public beach
I took my husband on a little stroll down Memory Lane. My father farmed with Uncle Wally for a couple of years so I have my own history with The Farm which is a little longer than that of other cousins. This is the public beach where I finally earned my ‘Swimmer’ designation. I did not like diving then and I still don’t. I always get water up my nose.
The North End
The beach at the North End of The Farm remains a family gathering place. There is room for tenting, a pavillion for cooking and eating, and a dock. Thank you cousins for making all these comforts for other cousins. You’ll notice the stony beach, rounded lake washed stone. I always bring a few of these stones home with me.
North End dock
Cousins and friends make good use of the amenities. And there are still tales of skinny dipping. Oh, how wicked we were at 12!
There isn’t much farming going on here anymore, but Cousin Walt who worked for a local winery, and the vineyards of Shelburne Farms in his retirement, planted a few vines of his own down at the North End. When we drove up the air was fragrant with the scent of ripening grapes.
I enjoyed all the chicory in bloom along the roadsides. I don’t know why there is so little here in Heath.
Esther and Algot
During an afternoon visit with cousins Jennie, Bernie and Peggy, we went through a family album that included photos of my grandparents who started everything rolling.
My own childhood memories are sometimes hazy but it is fun to compare stories with Walt who is my age, and who protected me on my first trips in the ‘doodle bug.’ The doodle bug was a the little van that served as temporary school bus that took us to a two room school house. No safety regs in those days. There were two little benches in the van and by the time we picked up all the kids and got to school we were sitting on each other’s laps. I attended that school in 1948-49, the last half of second grade and third grade. I’ve written about earlier visits here. Living on The Farm, visiting The Farm over the years have left their mark on all of us, giving us an appreciation of the work that farmers do, and of the beauty of fields, woods and water that we all treasure.
Heath Fair Vegetable basket
What is the why of the Heath Fair? It is a celebration of the bounty of the earth – and the knowledge and energy to make it fruitful.
Heath Fair cow and calf
It is a celebration of our farms and farmers.
Heath Fair and mini goats
It is about sharing the natural world with our children. Those are miniature mama goats.
Heath Fair Garlic
The Heath Fair is about competition,
Heath Fair Music
Heath Fair Blue Ribbon cookies – baked by Bella
and Blue Ribbons.
For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.
Coffee for Roses
Coffee for Roses by C.L. Fornari is subtitled . . . and 70 Other Misleading Myths About Backyard Gardening (St. Lynn’s Press $17.95.) Fornari covers a lot of ground in this book that gives more than it promises. I had to laugh when I opened the book to the first myth,“A perennial garden is less work than an annual planting because the plants come up every year.” That was a myth that I believed in when I planted my first perennial. I soon found there was more to do than wait for the plants to come up every spring.
Then, when I had been tending a few passalong perennials for a couple of years I was stunned one summer day when I was reading Janet Gillespie’s delightful book, The Joy of a Small Garden, and she began writing about moving her perennials from one place to another. Surely not! Surely once you plant a perennial that’s where it will grow forever and ever. Dividing and moving? I hadn’t counted on that!
That brings us to myth # 3 “Passalong plants from neighbors or plant sales are a good way to plant a perennial garden.” Actually I think passalong plants are a good way to start a garden, but these plants are easy to give because they are what some might politely call strong growers, or aggressive growers or sometimes, thugs. I personally will never grow plume poppy again. Beyond thugishness Fornari points out some invasive plants might come with the passalong, because the owner thought it was pretty, and goutweed is very pretty, or because a bit of root or seed came along in the soil. Great troubles may await you.
We had plant swaps in Heath for a few years, but they stopped because in three or four years all of us had the same strong growers and no one needed any more. We were all busy digging out exploded clumps, and weeding plants that self seeded throughout the perennial bed.
Some myths grow out of a poor sex education. A female does not need a male holly (see Myth #36) in close proximity to grow – only to make the desirable red berries. Some biology principles cross species: women don’t need a man in close proximity to grow either, and hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs, only to fertilize the eggs and make chicks. I was talking to an acquaintance the other day and she was worried about whether her husband’s carefully tended tomato plant would produce fruit this year. I asked if it had any flowers yet. The question stunned her and I had to point out that fruits and vegetables begin with a flower, beans and peas and squash and tomatoes all produce flowers. Apples and peaches, too.
I was surprised to learn all the different ways that flowers seduce pollinators into their service. Perfume, of course, but color? Vibrators? Landing strips? Mother Nature certainly is creative.
And while we are talking about sex and reproduction Myth #21 explains why you can plant pumpkins and squash in your garden and not end up with “squmpkins.” It is true that pumpkins and squash can cross pollinate but that means that if you are a seed saver you cannot use the seed from those cross pollinated squash and pumpkins because you don’t know what you will get. Fornari gives you lots of information about the birds, bees and plants that you may not have considered before, but which may save you some blushes in the future.
Fornari not only explains why some myths are untrue, she gives additional related information. When she explains that spiked shoes (Myth #57) don’t aerate lawns, she goes further and explains the various ways you can maintain a healthy lawn as well as dangers like overwatering.
We all get our information about gardening in numerous ways. Experienced gardening friends are usually a font of good information and advice. But many friends are not all that experienced, though they are willing to repeat a tip they “heard somewhere.”
I get a lot of information from books, but even when books tell you something that is true, they might not tell you all the ramifications and consequences that follow. For example many years ago I read, somewhere, that tansy would keep away bugs. You could put it in your hat, or put it by your door, and then not be bothered by bugs. You would even reap a benefit if you planted it with your roses. I don’t recall the promised benefit; it has been erased from my memory by the terrible consequence – a field full of tansy that also infested my raspberry patch and vegetable garden. I am constantly waging battle with this invasive plant. It may be true that tansy keeps away bugs, but I cannot warn people enough about the dangers of tansy which spreads by roots and by seed. It is pretty, but it is dangerous.
Fornari gives you complete information when exploding a myth. She has been gardening for many years at Poison Ivy Acres on Cape Cod, written six books including Your Garden Shouldn’t Make You Crazy, hosts a two hour GardenLine call-in radio show, and won awards for excellence from the Garden Writers Association. You can find her wit and wisdom on her new blog www.coffeeforroses.com. No bum information anywhere. ###
Roses and lilies, mostly
On this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day there are great clumps of bloomers and I can see a busy fall season of digging and dividing. Here the Thomas Affleck rose and Henryii lilies are lush and full of pollinators. You can also see a cloud of meadow rue flowers. I just love this section of the garden right next to the house.
Black Beauty lilies and crimson bee balm
This Bloom Day the Black Beauty lilies and the crimson bee balm make a great combo – even if they are standing exactly straight and tall.
This section of the North Lawn Bed is one of the places that whisper, ” Dig me! Divide me!” Phlox, pink and white, cone flower, Russian sage and even a lily that the deer missed at their luncheon party a few weeks ago.
This is another section of the North Lawn Bed where Achillea “the Pearl is rampant in front of sunny “Mardi Gras”. On the other side of the path you can see a passalong and nameless yarrow, bits of Blue Paradise phlox and Connecticut Yankee delphinium.
I don’t think this yarrow is Coronaation Gold, but I am going to cut it and see if it dries well.
Ann Varner daylily
Of course, August is daylily season and Ann Varner is at her peak.
The Fairy rose
Except for Thomas Affleck and The Fairy, rose season is over.
The tall candles of cimicifuga, snakeroot, look very cool in the shade of the ancient apple tree.
Like the meadow rue, Artemesia lactiflora has very unusual airy blossoms, but dark foliage.
The hydrangeas are in bloom. ’Mothlight’ the oldest is almost as tall as the weeping birch next to it. ‘Limelight’ is very happy and the oakleaf hydrangea is recovering from deer browing. The bucket loader is there because our driveway is actually town road and the road crew is repairing damage by our heavy rain storms. There hasn’t been an unusual amount of rain, but when it comes, it comes down hard and all at once.
Toremia is a new annual to me. It grows on the Bridge of Flowers and love it. No deadheading necessary.
Cuphea is another new-to-me annual growing in pots in front of the house. The colors are fabulous!
Love Lies Bleeding
I first saw Love Lies Bleeding, an amaranth, planted in the ground at Wave Hill in New York. I was stunned by the aptness of its name, and at Wave Hill it was a heroic love that had died bleeding. I think I will have to plant it in the ground next year. I am perplexed by the differently shapped pendant flower cluster. One looks like pompoms and the other more tassel-like. Any ideas?
For more of what is blooming over this great land visit Carol, our hostess, over at May Dreams Gardens on this Bloom Day.
View from the Bedroom Window July 1, 2014
The view from the bedroom window on July 1, 2014 shows a hot and humid landscape, but there is a breeze.
July 16, 2014
It’s been hot, humid and rainy. The rains are usually torrential – July 4 – 2 inches; July 7 – 2 inches; July 15 – 3 inches during the night.
July 30, 2014
Thelast week of July was chilly, with night temperatures in the 50′s. Breezy during the day. A total of another 2-1/2 inches rain on the July 27-28. With a few showers thrown in, we’ve had about 10 inches of rain during July.
For more (Almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.
I have wildflowers in the fields around our house. Other flowers have joined them unexpectedly. These wildflowers showed up mysteriously en masse this year. I believe they are panicled asters. They are tall with ‘willow-like’ leaves, numerous rays and they bloom in August through October.
Lots of these pretty flowers in the field and along the roadside.
Goldenrod, solidago. Maybe this is Solidago juncea which has tiny leaflets in the axils of the slim toothless of the upper leaves. The flower clusters have what they call an elmlike shape. There are many types of goldenrod and you’d think it would be easier to tell them apart.
At least I know this is steeplebush, Spiraea tomentosa, a low woody shrub with pink flowers and leaves that are a pale brownish color on the underside.. If you look very closely you can see that those tiny flowers have five petals and grow in a kind of pink fuzzy cluster. Right behind the steeplebush is a clump of wild mint.
This isn’t a very noticeable plant. Icertainly never noticed it in the field before. Mine doesn’t seem very minty, but I am fascinated by the tiny flower clusters that grow in the leaf axils.
Behind the wild mint is a large clump of escaped thyme. Actually there is a lot of thyme in the field. And in my ‘lawn’. I didn’t realize it could spread by seed, but it must. I have been deliberately planting thyme in my lawn for a number of years. It gets mowed often enough that it rarely blooms, but I consider it an important element in my ‘flowery mead.’
Bee balm escapees
This bee balm is growing right at the very end of the road, in front of our brush pile. Possibly it is the result of a stray root from a thinned clump of bee balm in the Herb Bed nearby. Escaped thyme and bee balm – do they now qualify as wildflowers too?
‘Jade’ bush beans
Beans are among the most common vegetable crops. Because they are so common, perhaps we don’t think about the great variety of beans that we can grow and enjoy. Beyond string beans we have shelly beans, long beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, soy beans, butter beans, and tepary beans. Within each of those bean families are dozens of varieties. There are green beans, yellow wax beans, purple podded beans and splotch podded beans with names like ‘Tongues of Fire.’ There are old heritage varieties like ‘Beurre de Rocquencourt,’ and new disease resistant beans like ‘Jade.’
My neighbors Lynn Perry and Rol Hesselbart have a beautiful garden that includes productive ‘Jade’ bush beans. They have been growing ‘Jade’ for several years. “When they were new Johnny’s Selected Seeds described them as a gourmet bean that was slender and tender. I’ve always found that to be true” Perry said.
The reason beans are so popular is because they are easy to grow and nearly everyone likes to eat beans – of one sort or another. Beans like a moderately rich soil with lots of organic matter and a pH between 6 and 7, slightly acidic to neutral. They need sun. If you are growing pole beans make sure they are sited so they do not shade other crops, although lettuces will welcome some summer shade.
‘Jade’ bush beans
Beans are a warm weather plant and are seeded directly in the soil which means the soil needs to be warm enough. Gardeners often worry about frost dates to determine when it is warm enough to plant tomatoes or other warm weather crops, but soil temperature plays a large part in germination. Beans germinate best in a soil temperature of 60 degrees or more. Soil thermometers are available from seed catalogs, and in many garden centers for less than about $15.
When I was looking through seed catalogs this spring I came across tepary beans for the first time. This is an ancient bean native to the American southwest and there is evidence that it was cultivated as long as 5,000 years ago. The beans are small, but they are extremely heat and drought tolerant.
Tepary beans do need water to germinate so in those days they were planted after a rain. Once they were established they did not need regular watering. The Native Seeds/SEARCH website offers 30 varieties of tepary beans in assorted colors from white to black, yellow to red, and speckled. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds also sells tepary seeds.
I am always saying that a walk down the garden path has many side paths into myth, literature, science and history. Tepary beans lead us into some of the ancient history of our own country.
If we are talking about beans of the southwest, we are led to a consideration of squash. The teaching of the Native American’s system of the Three Sisters is quite common in elementary schools – or maybe I am leaping to that conclusion because I live in western Massachusetts where many schools have gardens, and where the Hawlemont school has launched a whole new agricultural curriculum.
The Three Sisters is a system where corn is planted first and when the corn has begun to grow, pole beans are planted around the corn so that they can climb the stalk as it grows. At the same time squash seeds are also planted. The squash foliage provides a weed surpressing living mulch that also helps to conserve moisture.
Recently I have been having trouble with rabbits again. It just occurred to me – a little late for this season – that I could institute a Two Sisters program. The rabbits have been eating my beans when they are just beginning to grow. They don’t actually kill the plants, but they put them behind. Rabbits are not supposed to like rough hairy foliage, like that of squash. I am wondering if I could plant squash around my pole beans and discourage some of those wicked bunnies. I can see that it would depend on how quickly the squash get going, and how hairy the young foliage is. Still, it is an experiment for next year.
I planted summer Yellow Crookneck squash, Black Raven zucchini and Lakota winter squash in their own beds. Like beans, squash likes rich soil with a pH of about 6. Some say it takes a bushel of manure for each squash hill. I am lucky that I have lots of compost made with chicken manure.
Still, I have to say that neither my beans nor my squash are rampantly growing this year. I do not think the problem is the quality of my soil. I think the problem is the very cool summer we are having up here in at the end of the road. Beans and squash like hot summers.
When I visited the Perry/Hesselbart garden I had to take off my sweat shirt. The sun came out and it was suddenly warm. I couldn’t believe how luxuriant their bean plants were. I complained to them about the rabbits in our garden and the chilly days and nights. They reminded me that they live in South Heath and I live in North Heath. I am about 300 feet higher than they are. Microclimates do make a difference!
Perry and Hesselbart do have a garden with supersoil, but my soil is good (I had it tested) so I will accept their excuse – I mean, their explanation for the slow growth of my squash and beans. Besides, they have an energetic Labradoodle. That means no rabbits.
Between the Rows August 2, 2014
Common thyme on the piazza
When I planted my herb garden I was not in search of pollinators. However, I have found that several of my herbs are pollinator magnets.
Bees in the thyme
You may have to take my word for the presence of several bees in the thyme. There are so many, and they move so fast, along with a few tiny butterflies/moths that I just point the camera and hope that I captured one or two. This thyme grows at the edge of the walkway, and the piazza so that there is no jarring disconnect between the paving and the little stone wall. We have also planted thyme in the lawn, but since the lawn is mowed regularly it rarely gets to bloom.
Bee balm and bee
In the Herb Bed proper I have a large clump of bee balm that attracts all manner of bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. This is a bumblebee sipping nectar but there are hundreds of types of native bees in Massachusetts. Some of the bees in my Herb Bed are very tiny.
flowering oregano and bee
More pointing and hoping with this photo where the bees and tiny moths (I think) were flitting very fast among the flowers of oregano, planted at the feet of the bee balm. See one bee slightly up and to the right of center?
Can you see any bees in the golden marjoram? Neither can I, but I know there were at least three on the blossoms when I snapped the camera!
Garlic chive and bee
Finally one more bee in the garlic chives. Lower right. There are many pollinators in the Herb Bed but many of them are very shy. Obviously. I enjoy knowing that my landscape holds and supports many pollinators, even if can’t count every benefit, or get good pictures.
Garden Flowers. Gardeners who want a flower garden usually want that flower garden to be in bloom all season long. There are different ways to do this.
One way is to have different flower beds for different seasons. I have never been willing to try and to put spring bulbs into a flower bed that will have other flowers blooming throughout later seasons. I plant my bouquet of daffodils in a section of grass. When they have bloomed and the foliage has ripened and browned that area of lawn gets mowed down.
Spring blooming bulbs can also be planted underneath deciduous trees beneath a groundcover. Some groundcovers like vinca, tiarella or barren strawberry will add their own springtime blooms. Again, when the foliage has ripened in a bed of groundcovers it will soon wither away and disappear.
Spring blooming bulbs can also be planted in a bed of other spring blooming perennials like bleeding hearts, hellebores, dodecatheon (shooting star), or brunnera with its blue flowers that resemble forget-me-nots. Siberian irises are another easy spring bloomer that comes in an array of mostly blue, purple and white shades.
Peonies are flowers that can take you from mid-spring to early summer because there are so many varieties, in colors from creamy white, to pink, coral and rich red. The lovely thing about peonies is that after they bloom and are deadheaded, the deep green foliage is still a good addition to the flower bed. Peonies are also welcome in the garden because they are such long lived plants and have almost no disease or pest problems.
Achillea ‘ Terra Cotta’
A bed of summer flowers is easy to fill with the spikes of astilbe, the flat flower heads of yarrow (achillea), Shasta daisies that can be low or tall, the fat flower clusters of garden phlox (P. paniculata), spiky sea holly, sunny heleniums that bloom for almost 2 months, spikes of liatris or gayfeather, and daylilies with their strappy leaves. I grow my daylilies in a mass planting, but they also work well as individual plants in a border.
There is a host of daisy-like flowers. I have the tall Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’ that has just begun to bloom in hot shades of gold and red, and pink coneflower (Echinacea) but there are golden marguerites, drought and deer resistant gaillardias, and coreopsis.
Daisies themselves are member of the asteraceae family, so of course, we have a number of asters that bloom in the fall. There is the popular shocking pink ‘Alma Potschke,’ the tall ‘Harrington’s Pink,’ lavender Aster frikartii, and ‘Lady in Black,’ which refers to the dark stems and foliage, not the pale pink flowers.
Dahlias grow from tubers that are not winter hardy in our part of the world, but they can be treated like annuals. There are large and small dahlias, tall and short, in many colors. They begin flowering in mid-summer and bloom until frost. They make great cut flowers, and the more you cut, the more blooms you will have.
The iconic fall bloomer is the chrysanthemum which not only comes in many shades from pale to brilliant or rich, but in many forms, button blossoms, dinner plate size, spider, and spoon petals. I have what is called a Sheffield daisy or Sheffie, actually a chrysanthemum, which is a wonderful shade of pink with a yellow center that blooms late in the fall and is a good spreader. I have been able to give away divisions of this beautiful plant.
Sheffield Daisy – Sheffies
Another late summer, early fall bloomer is the Montauk daisy. There you have a description of the flowers, but the plant itself is actually considered a sub-shrub. It can reach a height of three feet with an equal spread and the foliage is heavy and almost succulent.
Since I mention sub-shrubs, I want to point out the benefit of including blooming shrubs in your seasonal flower bed. Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia) is a surprising plant with fragrant flowers that blooms in April and May before it has much foliage. It is a low maintenance plant that will grow only two or three feet high and just as wide.
Clethera alnifolia (sweet pepperbush) ‘Ruby Spice’ is a summer bloomer that welcomes a little shade, and prefers a moist site, which makes it perfect for a rain garden as well as a summer flower bed. The fragrant pink six inch long bottlebrush flowers bloom in July and August.
Hydrangeas are a flowering shrub that will have bloom well into the fall. I have let my airy-blossomed ‘Mothlight’ get away from me and I am trying to gradually prune it down to a more reasonable height. I also have a fairly new ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea with loose pyramidal flowers that become darker and darker pink as the season progresses. So far the deer are helping me keep its size limited, but it can grow to eight feet tall and as wide. Very hardy and trouble free.
While I have concentrated here on perennial plantings, I have to say that one sure way to have lots of flowers in a bed is to include annuals. Who can resist petunias, annual salvias, verbenas, lobelia, cosmos and osteospurnums. The local garden centers have a full range of annuals in spring, as well as perennials.
Some local garden shops will be having sales of their perennial plants soon. This is a chance to get some bargains as you are thinking about next year’s flower beds.
Between the Rows July 26, 2014
Bee Balm from the piazza
On this First of the Month I am going to show you some long views. My camera isn’t really ideal for long views but you might get a different idea of the garden, and the text is still a bloom record. I confess the weeds are not as visible in a long view. This is the bee balm in the Herb Bed right in front of the house. We can watch the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees from out dining/kitchen table. That is the f amous Cottage Ornee across the lawn.
west side of North Lawn Bed
Leaving the Herb Bed I go across the driveway/road and come to the North Lawn Bed. This section includes a weeping cherry, echinacea, phlox, Russian sage, cosmos, pansies still blooming, and a Fulda Glow sedum which is a great plant.
North Lawn Bed
Further on this side of the North Lawn Bed is The Fairy rose, toremia, phlox, and liatris.
End of the North Lawn Bed
The only thing blooming here is Mardi Gras helenium. A Montauk daisy at its base will bloom later. The Carolina lupine put out a lot of growth this year, but no blooms.
End of South Lawn Bed
There is a wide grass path between the Lawn Beds. This tangle includes cotoneaster, shasta daisies, a mystery golden yarrow, Connecticut Yankee delphinium, Blue Paradise phlox, toremia and more Fulda Glow. This bed is mostly filled with the fourth gingko, a weeping birch and a huge Mothlight hydrangea which I love and have not been able to keep pruned down. I will continue to try.
Very long view of North Lawn Bed
This is a very long view of the east side of the North Lawn bed. The most noticeable flower from this view if Achillea ‘The Pearl’. Phlox, white and pink on the right. This bed contains 3 gingkos, Golden threadleaf false cypress, yarrow, cosmos, and .artemesia lactiflora. More bloom still to come.
Very long view of South Lawn Bed.
You can see the Mothlight hydrangea is nearly as tall as the weeping birch.
View from the bedroom window
This view from the upstairs bedroom gives you a sense of the whole.
Echinops, meadow rue, and cimicifuga are blooming, as well and a few rose blossoms here and there: R. setigera, Belle Poitvine, Rugosa alba, Meideland red and Sitka.
Love Lies Bleeding
Love Lies Bleeding and other potted annuals are doing well at the edge of the piazza. The vegetables are struggling this year, but the ornamental garden hasn’t minded the cool summer. Neither has the lawn. It keeps growing and growing.