Dear Friend and Gardener

Everything Changes – in the garden and everywhere

Planting in a Post Wild World

Planting in a Post-Wild World

Everything changes. Change on all fronts is inescapable, unstoppable and inevitable. No one knows this more than a gardener who watches her garden change over the years.

In 2016 I will be gardening in a new garden, a smaller garden, a garden that will not require as much maintenance as the Heath garden. It is also a garden with very different features. The soil is heavy clay. The soil is very wet and drains slowly.  There is a lot of shade.

With the help of noted landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy’s Home Outside Palette app my husband and I began to layout and plant garden beds, concentrating on water loving, or water tolerant native shrubs.  My desire was to have a kind of woodland garden instead of perennial beds .

Over the years I have become more and more interested in native plants, and more and more aware of their value in maintaining the health of our ecosystems. Certain books have led me along this path including Bringing Nature Home by entomologist Douglas Tallamy. Tallamy also collaborated with Rick Darke on The Living Landscape: Designing for beauty and biodiversity in the home garden. Darke is a landscape lecturer and photographer who proves that a biodiverse garden can be beautiful.

Most recently Timber Press sent me a copy of Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West.

One of their goals is to help gardeners create beautiful gardens that more closely replicate the ways plants grow in the wild even in urban and suburban situations.  “The good news is that it is entirely possible to design plantings that look and function more like they do in the wild: more robust, more diverse, and more visually harmonious with less maintenance. The solution lies in understanding plantings as communities of compatible species that cover the ground in interlocking layers.”

While Rainer and West value native species, they call their philosophy “a middle way” in which layered plantings mean more room for compatible non-natives (never invasives) and a greater diversity of beneficial plants. They want to focus on naturally occurring plant communities which means paying less attention to purely native plantings and concentrating on performance and adaptability. Their idea is to make our relationship to nature a collaborative one.

I should mention here that the book is lavishly illustrated with beautiful photographs that give an explicit view of what they are talking about. Photographs show the differences in landscapes from the humble hellstrip along a sidewalk to flowery meadows, droughty hillsides and woodlands.

Rainer and West lay out five basic principles. The first is to concentrate on related populations, not isolated indivduals. This means not planting the Echinacea next to the sedum next to the hellebore. It means letting plants self-seed and intermingle, as they do in nature. My own Heath lawn, or flowery mead as I called it, is a case in point.

Principle two: Stress can be an asset. This is often how we get to naturally occurring plant communities.

Principle three: Cover the ground densely by vertically layering plants. This is a reminder that bare soil does not exist in nature and we can find plants to fill every niche of space and soil type and let nature do some of that filling in.

Principle four: Make it attractive and legible. This principle will calm those who wonder if all Rainer and West desire is messy, weedy woodland. They are realists they say, and “designed plant communities can be patterned and stylized in a way that makes them understandable, ordered and attractive. They need not replicate nature in order to capture its spirit.”  They suggest ‘frames’ which can be pathways or other hardscape elements like fences or walls.

Principle five: Management, not maintenance. Gardeners know you cannot plant a garden and then sit back and admire it indefinitely. But with good management you can eliminate many chores, weeding, watering, spraying, etc. This is possibly my favorite principle.

The penultimate chapter gives specific instruction on planting and maintaining a plant community.

Planting in a Post-Wild World is a dense, but readable book. Not all the ideas are brand new but they are presented in new ways, broadening their applicability, and showing how we can adapt them to our own situation. Rainer and West believe the time is right for a horticultural renaissance where plantings will be ecologically diverse, functional and sound, but will also be beautiful, understandable and appealing to the gardener and her friends.

I made a start on a new and different garden this past summer, but there is a lot of work to do in 2016 to make it functional in the ways I first imagined, and in new ways as well. I am now dreaming of a hugelkulture project. Stay tuned. I am also thinking of how I can expand on the plans I made for covering the ground in my new, and soon to be enlarged beds. I think I can be bolder about letting plants intermingle. I want to work towards the plateau of management.

How will you and your garden change in 2016?

Between the Rows  January 2, 2016

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.

Christmas Trees – Large and Small

Norway spruce

Norway spruce

One of the very first things I liked about our new house, or more specifically our new yard, was the very tall evergreen in the northwestern corner. It is a magnificent tree that might be 30 feet tall with graceful pendulous branches. On our first drive past the house I admired this beautiful tree in the backyard. It is not like any tree we had in view in Heath. There most of the conifers are pines or hemlocks.

I thought this tree was a Norway spruce although I cannot say what depths of my mind or imagination made me think so. With so much else to do I did not go out of my way to try and identify it properly. Now that it has produced some cones in its upper branches I have been able to confirm that it is indeed a Norway spruce.

Our tree doesn’t have any cones near the ground, but a zoom lens on my camera puts them within identifying distance and the long cones do match the photographs I found online.

Norway Spruce cones

Norway spruce cones

The Norway spruce, as you might imagine, is native to Europe and beloved by the Norwegians. It is disease resistant and deer don’t like to eat it. It likes acid soil and is hardy in zone 2 (hardy to -50 degrees) and tolerant of a zone 7 climate where the temperature rarely goes below zero. Any tree welcomes good soil, but this tree is very tolerant of clay or sandy soils with the caveat that it get at least 25 inches of rain a year. According to US Climate Data Greenfield gets an average of 50 inches of rain a year. After seven months working on our new house I have learned that my biggest gardening challenge is the poor drainage of my clay soil. The Norway spruce does not lack for moisture.

It is a fast growing tree, especially in the first 25 years after being planted especially under good conditions. At maturity it can reach a height of 100 feet with a 40 foot spread. It is not a tree for a small garden! Our street was laid out around 1925 so the tree was probably not planted before that, making it nearly 100 years old.

Norway spruce has a deep and wide spreading root system making it very sturdy in heavy wind, hence its frequent use as a windbreak tree.

Learning that the Norway spruce was a good and valuable timber tree, I did not think that it would make a very good Christmas tree. I was wrong. I just learned that Norway sends a majestic Norway spruce every year to London, Edinburgh, New York and Washington, D.C. In London it stands regally in Trafalgar Square; I don’t know where the other cities place their spruces. The trees are a gift in gratitude for the aid given to Norway during World War II.

We’ve had several varieties of Christmas tree over the years. Our first Christmas tree in Greenfield in 1971 was a straggly hemlock that began dropping needles as soon as we brought it into the house. A new friend took me and my three girls into the woods to have a real Christmas experience and cut down our own tree. The experience was not quite what we expected or wished for but it has made one of our favorite family stories.

Our first tree in Heath was a fat Colorado blue spruce that was growing right in front of the windows where we had our dining table to get a view of our beautiful landscape. The tree was not part of the view we wanted to admire. It had to come down. It was not too hard to cut down, but it was so fat and bristly with sharp needles that we all got a bit bloodied while trying to drag it into place. I’ve been told that  while the Colorado blue spruce is a popular Christmas tree, it is often sold as a small living tree in a pot so that it could be planted outdoors later. I certainly can understand that a baby blue spruce is easier to handle than a mature specimen. I hope most people do a better job of siting the tree than our predecessors did.

When we planted our snowbreak in Heath with Conservation District pines, we also planted a number of Balsam firs. We were able to harvest those trees for Christmas over the years, and did at least one additional planting that got us nearly through our tenure there. I do have to say we have had some very odd looking trees over the years. Planting trees intended for Christmas does not necessarily mean you will prune and care for those trees the way a professional tree farmer will.

Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

This year for the first time in many years we bought a tree on Greenfield’s Main Street. It is a fat Fraser fir, one of the most popular tree varieties. It was well pruned and tended which means it has a lovely regular shape, but it does not have the space between its branches to hang larger ornaments. That was an adjustment for me, the chief tree decorator. When we had our own very irregular Christmas trees there was always empty space for large ornaments.

So this year, we have an imposing Norway spruce in the backyard protecting us from any bitter northwest winds, and a charming Christmas tree in  our new dining room where we will enjoy roast beast and sugar plums, and celebrate all twelve days of Christmas.  On January 6 the tree will be taken down and set out in the garden (such as it is) to hold suet and seeds for the birds.

My wish is that you each celebrate the holidays for at least 12 days, and find many happy days waiting for you in 2016.

Between the Rows   December 26, 2015

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.

 

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.

Horticultural Society Memberships Make Good Gifts

American Gardener Magazine

American Gardener Magazine published by the American Horticultural Society

Being surrounded by books makes me feel secure and comfortable knowing that I have information or entertainment at hand whenever I need it. However, my bookshelves also hold magazine holders where I store the magazines like Fine Gardening and the magazines and newsletters from horticultural societies like the American Horticultural Society, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and the New England Wildflower Society. I am a member of all three. Memberships in horticultural and plant societies make a great gift.

Membership in the American Horticultural Society ($35 annually) includes a subscription to The American Gardener, a bi-monthly magazine that includes information about the doings of the Society, and articles about plants and gardeners, expert and amateur. Last year, as part of a series on gardeners in the community, they even included an article about me, and the Bridge of Flowers. Previous issues are also available online to all members.

As rich and useful as The American Gardener is, that is only one of the membership benefits. Members also get reciprocal entry to 300 public gardens nationally, a seed exchange program, and discounts at the Garden Shop.

What the AHS gets from our dues is support for programs like the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium for teachers and those creating school and other gardens for the young. Dues also support the AHS headquarters which includes the 25 acre River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia with its varied gardens. There are perennial borders, a meadow, an orchard and 13 small imaginative gardens that make up the whole of the Children’s Garden. We are all invited to visit.

Weezie's Children's Garden

Whimsical Tower in Weezie’s Children’s Garden at the Elm Bank garden

A bit closer is the Massachusetts Horticultural Society ($55) with its headquarters in Wellesley. The ElmBankGardens include Weezie’s Garden for children, a trial garden for All-America seeds, the Garden to Table vegetable garden, and gardens planted by the Daylily Society and the Rhododendron Society. The Italianate Garden was originally designed by the Olmstead Brothers, and renovated in 2001. A Masshort membership gives you unlimited access to all these gardens, as well as reciprocal admission to public gardens across the country, discounts at 70 nurseries and garden centers, and discounts on the many educational programs and events presented every year. And, of course, a ticket to the Boston Flower and Garden Show.

Membership in the Massachusetts Horticultural Society will also give you a subscription to Rodale’s Organic Life and borrowing privileges at the Society’s library.

Even more locally is Nasami Farm in Whately, the propagating wing of the New England Wildflower Society ($55) founded in 1900. Membership in this Society gives you unlimited visits to the Garden in the Woods in Framingham with admission for one guest each visit, subscription to all Society publications, plus monthly e-newsletters, and discounts at a number of regional and mail order nurseries through the Nursery Partner Program.

With all the growing information and appreciation of the benefits to the environment of using native plants, and eradicating invasive plants, I find it a pleasure to support the oldest plant conservation organization in the United States. And a real pleasure to shop for native perennials, groundcovers, shrubs and trees at Nasami Farm.

I must mention that all three societies have beautiful websites, full of information, and all free. Among other things the AHS has a full list of plant societies like the Daylily Society with full information about joining them.

The New England Wildflower Society’s website includes Go Botany which will help you identify plants, but of course, you need to observe and describe them carefully. Go Botany is a great place for adults and children to work together to identify plants and have fun while learning about the anatomy and life of plants.

For those who wish to specialize there are plant societies devoted to a specific plant. There are many iris enthusiasts in our area and the American Iris Society ($30 annually) produces a 65 page Bulletin four times a year with all the latest information about iris cultivation and new cultivars whether they be Japanese, Siberian, dwarf or any other type of iris. There will also be news about iris tours, auctions and exhibitions.

The American Rhododendron Society ($40) produces a quarterly Journal with Society and plant information, information about conferences, lectures and tours, discounts on books, and local chapters where rhodie lovers can meet others of like mind.

There is also the American Rose Society ($49) which will give you 5 issues of American Rose magazine, the American Rose Annual, a handbook for selecting roses, online quarterly bulletins, advice from consulting rosarians, discounts at rose nurseries, free or reduced admission to many public gardens and arboreta, and a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. www.rose.org.

A gift membership in any one (or two) of the societies that gives information about the favorite plants of the gardener in your family is bound to be a hit. The cost is modest, and you can do all your shopping on line.

Between the Rows   December 19, 2015

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.

Greenline in New York City?

High Line Garden in NYC

High Line Garden in NYC May 2010

I visited the High Line a few years ago, before it was finished, and I hope to visit this summer and walk the entire length of this beautiful elevated garden – even bigger than our own Bridge of Flowers.

End of the High Line in May 2010

End of the High Line in May 2010

The High Line ended abruptly here in May of 2010, and it was completed at the Rail Yards until September 2014.

But now there is a proposal for a Greenline garden that would turn the diagonal 40 blocks of Broadway into a garden. I can’t seem to copy a photo here, but visit my friend Rochelle Greayer at her Pith+Vigor blog for wonderful imaginations of this proposed garden, a turning Broadway into a Greenline Garden. This idea by Perkins Eastman architects would be a beautiful addition to the New York park system and  all that greenery would have positive environmental effects.

Proposed Greenline

Proposed Greenline designed bu Perkins Eastman

Adele Peters has more information which includes the fact that the Greenline is ‘just a concept” but wouldn’t it be wonderful if such a park could be a reality. What do you think?

Proposed Greenline in Manhattan

Proposed Greenline

Gift Books for the Gardener

At my house every gift giving occasion should include a book, or three. Every year there is a new crop of books to help new and experienced gardeners keep up with new trends and techniques, and find new ways to make their gardens, indoors and out, more beautiful and/or productive. Here is a sampling of new books for the gardener.

Fruit Gardener's Bible

Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry

Fruit Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit and Nuts in the Home Garden by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry ($25 Storey Publishing)

Lewis Hill’s books have been with me almost ever since we moved to Heath and planned to start producing a lot of our food. I constantly referred to his book Cold Climate Gardening, Fruits and Berries for the HomeGarden, and Pruning Simplified. Lewis Hill was a Vermonter who did his best to help gardeners in their endeavors. He passed away in 2008, but his good friend and colleague Leonard Perry took on the job of revising Hill’s book on growing berries and fruits.

The Fruit Gardener’s Bible is a truly encyclopedic work. In revising the book Perry has updated and included new information about sustainable practices including biological pest and disease control. He also discusses the ways gardeners want to incorporate fruits and nuts into their ornamental landscapes to make use of their beauty as well as their harvests. In addition there are many new varieties of common fruits and more interest in less familiar fruits like loganberries and hardy kiwis.

Hill was a lifelong Vermonter and his writings tended to concentrate on gardens for the New England climates. Perry has expanded the scope of crops and the needs of gardeners who live where the climate posses different challenges.

This book has a focus on organic techniques and provides information from propagating to harvesting. The photographs are beautiful and instructive.

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph

Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph ($17 Storey Publishing)

Ann Ralph’s book is dedicated to the idea that fruit trees can be kept small, no taller than you are, while remaining healthy and productive. What it takes is careful pruning. Her focus is on rootstocks instead of the semi-dwarf label which she criticizes as giving a false idea of how big a tree will grow.

I appreciated her attitude towards growing fruit – which is a good attitude for life. “When you garden, good results depend on three things: what you expect the plant to do, what the plant is capable of in the environment where you put it, and your willingness to contribute.”

Ralph’s prose has a charm and wisdom that would be enjoyable if you never dreamed of planting even a small tree.

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti ($25 Cool Springs Press)

You may not aspire to creating a terrarium in an elegant Wardian case as shown on the cover of this book, but Maria Colletti will show you how to choose containers and plants that can be used to create the landscape of your choice, desert or woodland or tropical.

Colletti is the terrarium designer for the Shop in the Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden and she loves experimenting with carnivorous plants, cacti, succulents, ferns and tropical plants. She gives us step by step projects with advice and sources for terrarium necessities. She shares traditional, standard and classic building steps but always invites experimentation.

Of course it is one thing to set up and plant a beautiful terrarium, but then maintenance is required to mange moisture. The goal is to reach a state of equilibrium so that you can get to a level of “hands off and enjoy.”

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow by Tovah Martin ($23 Timber Press)

As far as I am concerned Tovah Martin is certainly the Queen of Houseplants. Readers who drooled over her earlier book The Unexpected Houseplant with special attention to gorgeous or surprising containers will be happy to see The Indestructible Houseplant.

Martin is a captivating writer and the layout of the book gives her plenty of scope. Along with a photograph of one of her own houseplants she gives an extended description of the plant including the different cultivars, and her own experiences with the plant. In addition there is a sidebar for each that lays out specific information about size, foliage, exposure, water requirements, soil type, fertilization schedule and companions that will live with it happily in the same container. She also includes a line for “other attributes” where she comments “famously indomitable” for aspidistra, “succulent, wonderfully bizarre and varied” for kalanchoe.

We often think the houseplant category is pretty limited, often because we see so few varieties in local garden centers, but Martin blasts that idea and gives us a pageful of sources for the indestructibles she has in her own collection. She begins with African violets and ends with Zamioculas samiifolia (ZZ to its friends) which has “no flowers but bulletproof.”

When to do what is often a big question for gardeners as we go through the year and the UMass Extension Garden Calendar for 2016 is available for $12 each plus $3.50 for mailing, and $2 for each additional calendar up to nine.  It includes one stunning and inspiring plant image for the month, daily gardening tips for our climate, sunrise and sunset times and more.

Between the Rows  December 11, 2015

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.