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Beardless Irises – and Giveaway

Beardless Irises: A plant for Every Garden Situation

Beardless Irises: A plant for Every Garden Situation

I recently reviewed Beardless Irises: A plant for every garden situation and now Schiffer publishing is offering a Giveaway of this beautiful, fascinating and useful book.

  I have been reading Beardless Irises: A Plant for Every Garden Situation by Keven C. Vaughn and published by Schiffer.  My own experience with beardless irises is with Siberian irises which are one of the most beautiful and easy care flowers in the world, and Japanese irises which often have a flatter flower and are truly spectacular. I never knew that beardless irises ranged from the sweet and petite, to the tall and stunning spurias.

            I never knew anything about Pacific coast native irises which we cannot really grow in our area because of the winters, but amazingly Louisiana irises, and spuria irises are definite possibilities. I will never take the iris family for granted again.

            Vaughn is a scholar, hybridizer and has a PhD in plant genetics. He gives us  common gardeners the information about whether a particular type of iris will thrive in our climate, as well as the usual cultural info about soil, fertilizer and sun requirements, but the book is also rich in the stories of hybridizers and their work. If you like to know how a stunning plant came to be, or even how to create your own hybrids, this is the book for you.

If you would like a chance to win a copy of this book with its stunning photographs of the many varieties and cultivars of beardless irises, all you have to do is leave a comment below. Perhaps you have a favorite iris to mention. I will have a drawing for this book on Wednesday, August 19.  Good luck!

 

Japanese iris

Japanese iris on display

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – July 2015

Angel Blush Hydrangea

Angel Blush Hydrangea

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

Button Bush

Buttonbush

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

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

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

Purington rambler

Purington rambler

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

The Fairy rose

The Fairy rose

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

Achillea Terra Cotta

Achillea Terra Cotta and yellow loossestrife

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

Coneflowers

Coneflowers

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

Daylily bank

Daylily Bank

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

Daylilies

Daylilies

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

Mothlight hydrangea

Mothlight hydrangea

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

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

Daylilies on the Bank and on Pickett Lane

Daylily Bank in Heath

Daylily bank in Heath

The Daylily Bank in Heath is coming into bloom. This solution to eliminating lawn mowing on the  steep bank has been very successful. It was planted over the course of three years with daylilies mostly in shades of yellow and pink.

Yellow daylily

Yellow daylily

The proper name for daylilies is Hemerocallis or ‘Beautiful for a day.’  I think this sunny yellow daylily is as beautiful as the day.

Pink daylily

Pink daylily

I have taken a  couple of daylilies down to the new house in Greenfield, but I am planning to be at the Daylily and Arts Festival on Saturday, July 11 between 9 am – 4 pm at 23 Pickett Lane. Lots of daylilies in bloom, and lots of daylilies to buy! Other vendors will be on site, too. Richard Willard has moved his Silver Gardens business to Pickett lane. Can’t wait to see his new site, and decide which daylilies  are crying to be planted in my new garden.

Greenfield Garden Club

 

Greenfield Garden Club members

Greenfield Garden Club members: Lynda Tyler

Who wouldn’t want friends who like to play in the dirt? Who are always learning new things? Who like to get out and about and see new beautiful places? Who everyday notice and appreciate the glorious world around them? Who are always thinking of ways to make their community more beautiful?

A group of people who all wanted friends like that decades ago and formed the Greenfield Garden Club and happily had their regular meetings in the afternoons. But we all know that time inevitably brings change. It was the change in women’s lives that brought about a re-formation of the Club in 1991. More and more women were working and afternoon meetings were no longer feasible. And more men wanted to join too.

So it was that in 1991 Richard Willard, Debran Brocklesby, Judge Alan McGuane, Margareta Athey and Jan (McGuane, as she was then) Adam, were among those who  reorganized the group. The first rule was the installation of evening meetings.

Jan Adam told me that the new Greenfield Garden Club got off to a slow start, but by the end of the first year it had over 100 members. “The mission of the club was to provide education for the gardeners, and to the community, and to work to improve and beautify community spaces.”

I can tell you that a lot of happy and friendly education takes place on field trips to nurseries and flower shows. Lots of comparing of notes and experiences, lots of new creative ideas are born at meetings and on trips.

The new Club has also seen changes over the past 24 years. A newsletter was born and mailed to members, with news of the club’s events, garden reminders, short garden features, and a list of vendors who give discounts to members. Nowadays that newsletter is emailed. There is also a Facebook page, and a website, www.thegreenfieldgardenclub.org, that lists meeting dates with program information, and information about the School and Community Grant program including a list of this year’s awards.

I have served on the grant committee and it is wonderful to see the great projects that teachers are creating to teach their students about botany (at an appropriate level) growing food, the deliciousness of fresh vegetables, and the ways plants affect the environment including pollinators. The goal of these grants is to engage the children in gardening, and eating fresh vegetables, and give them a better awareness of the natural world in the small space of a garden. When I read those grant applications I cannot help harking back to my days at UMass where there was emphasis on teaching skills like math, reading and writing through projects like gardening, cooking, wood working and other kinds of practical projects. It is a joy to see it happening.

Adam explained that while the Club did have its own town beautification program for a time, it involved so much work that now the club partners with other organizations to make and keep the town a beautiful place.

Because gardening is so closely allied to cooking, members volunteer at the August community meal at the First Congregational Church. “The club has so many good cooks, and we always bring bouquets of flowers which people really enjoy,” Adam said.

In order to pay for these programs the club has two fundraising events every year, the Extravaganza Plant Sale will be held Saturday, May 23 from 8 am to 1pm. “There are big changes this year because the sale will be held at St. James Episcopal Church on Federal Street which will make it much easier for people to find parking. In addition to all manner of plants, perennials, annuals, herbs and houseplants, there will be baked goodies, and a tag and book sale. For the first time we will also have vendors selling garden related products,” Adam said.

Fabulous garden on the 2014 Greenfield Garden Club  tour

Fabulous garden on the 2014 Greenfield Garden Club garden tour

The second big fundraiser is the Annual Garden Tour which gives gardeners the opportunity to visit some really stunning, and very different private gardens in the area, not only Greenfield. This year that tour will be on Saturday, June 27 from 9 am – 4 pm. Tickets ($12) to this self-guided tour will be on sale at the Trap Plain garden at the intersection of Silver and Federal Streets. Tickets will be on sale all morning. It is best to leave pets at home.

The gardens on the tour are always a surprise. Some are small and amaze me by their artful use of so many common plants, and so many unusual plants that are as stunning as a piece of art. The tour is a place to learn about plants, but also about how to arrange a landscape. Sometimes, a farm makes it into the tour. There is always something for everyone.

Even though it is the GreenfieldGarden Club, membership is open to anyone who wants to join the fun. I have been a member for years.

Between the Rows   May 16, 2015

Bridge of Flowers – Blooming for 85 years

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, MA

Bridge of Flowers

This year is the 85th anniversary of the Bridge of Flowers. There have been many changes since the trolley was discontinued and Antoinette Burnham declared that if an abandoned bridge could grow weeds it could grow flowers. It was with community effort that the Bridge of Flowers first bloomed in 1930. It blooms exuberantly today, from April and well into October.

Anyone who has ever owned a house and dealt with necessary ongoing maintenance will understand the changes that have been put in place on the Bridge of Flowers (BOF) over the past few years. Fences and buildings deteriorate, while conditions of use change. Plants get too big and need to be removed and sometimes they just die. They need to be replaced.

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, MA

Bridge of Flowers

Each year more and more people cross the Bridge, and more and more of those people are tourists, from around the state, but also from around the world. The volunteer BOF committee gets requests for information from touring companies in countries as different as Ireland and Japan. This is a very good thing for the businesses in town, and a spur to keep the Bridge looking at its very best all season long.

When repairs and improvements have been needed the BOF committee has tried to make even the most functional elements beautiful. For example, the colorful painted sign on the Shelburne side is embraced by a graceful metal support. It will soon be joined by a similar, but smaller sign on the Buckland side.

A protected and handsome kiosk was installed on the Buckland side to provide information about the Bridge, a guest book and a donation box. A smaller charming sign- in stand, and a donation box are on the Shelburne side. Contributions made through those donation boxes are very important to supporting the plantings on Bridge.

The Friends of the Bridge of Flowers, formed about six years ago, are also vital to the ability of the BOF committee to handle maintenance costs of the Bridge. A wooden fence separated the Bridge property from the VFW and the adjacent cottage for decades. However, wood rots, and the old fence was finally replaced by an elegant new fence. This spring a section of that fence is being repositioned to accommodate the new Garden House, and the drainage issues that affect the VFW and the cottage as well as the Bridge. The names of all these Friends, individuals and businesses, are listed on the Friends Tree which is another example of functional art on the Bridge.

Stone Spring on Bridge of Flowers

Stone Spring on Bridge of Flowers with new fence

In 2012, after years of searching for the right stones, the Stone Spring was installed, along with a simple stone bench. The quiet beauty of the fountain draws many people to sit and reflect in the loveliness of this shady spot.

River Bench

River Bench

Last spring the sculptural and very sturdy River Bench was installed on the Shelburne side.  Note the flowing design, and the river stones.

old shed on Bridge of Flowers

Old shed (you can’t see the rot, or ice inside)

This spring the 40 year old shed where Head Gardener Carol Delorenzo and the volunteer Flower Brigade keep their tools and equipment is being replaced by a Garden House. No longer will opening garden preparations be put off because the rotting shed doors, and wheelbarrows and other equipment are encased in ice.

The carefully designed Garden House will be slightly larger than the original shed, built to last longer than 40 years, and to be another element of very functional art.

Garden House site prepared

Garden House site prepared

Every gardener knows that a garden is never the same from year to year. Elaine Parmett, longtime committee member and occasional chairperson, said, “It’s been fun to watch how the plantings changed as different Head Gardeners came and left. Each one had a very different style. In those early years the Head Gardener was paid a small stipend, but there was no tracking of hours. There was no sense that she had a professional position. Of course, it was just a much simpler time,” Parmett said.

Nan Fischlein, current co-chair, and Elaine Parmett were on the BOF committee in the 1980s and both remember how simple an operation it was, much more informal and run on a shoestring. Back then the main funding came from small donations from the towns, and from the annual plant sale.

Parmett said she joined the committee and wanted to learn more about flowers. After 40 years she feels her own gardens have been enhanced and that the Bridge has grown more beautiful every year. “Nowadays there is more awareness that the Bridge is a community effort and needs community support.”

Fischlein agreed with Parmett that there have been great changes over the years. “I found a seachange in the way the board operates now, including the energy spent on keeping the Bridge in the public eye with a website and Facebook page. It is quite a new way of thinking about the public image of the Bridge. I think there is no way to understand how much the Bridge is involved in the local community. We have an educational program with the elementary schools, and are now giving tours to garden groups. We appreciate the growing support given to the Bridge. I’ve learned this time around that there is a lot of administrative effort behind the scenes to make the Bridge successful year after year!”

Like Parmett and Fischlein, I am also a member of the BOF committee, working harder than I expected. When people ask me why I do it, I echo the feeling of all the committee members and say, “For the pure joy of it.”

 

Mountain laurel

Mountain laurel

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2015

old apple tree in bloom

Old apple tree in bloom

It has been a  while since I have been able to post on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, but May has brought many blooms to the end of the road. Old apple trees and wild cherries  are blooming in the garden , along the road and in the fields.

Apple blossom closeup

Apple blossom closeup

Blooming trees are wonderful, and each blossom is a delight.

Sargent Crab

Sargent crabapple

The Sargent crabapple could not fit any more blossoms on itself.

Sargent crab apple blossoms

Sargent crab blossoms

Didn’t I tell you no more blossoms could fit on a branch?

Cotoneaster in bloom

Cotoneaster in bloom

I never get over my initial surprise that cotoneaster bears flowers!

Ornamental plum blooming

Ornamental plum blooming

How is it possible that I never noticed blossoms on this ornamental plum?  Could this year be the first time? The tree has to be at least 15 years old in this spot.

Bluets

Bluets

Sometimes bluets appear in the fields, or the lawn. These bluets seem almost white

Epimedium sulphureum

Epimedium sulphureum

This clump of Epimedium sulphureum has increased so much. So has Epimedium rubrum on the other side of this lawn bed.

Daffodils, Waldsteinia and tiarlla

Daffodils, Waldsteinia and tiarella

My idea was to get rid of grass, and this area on the road side of the Peony Bed is coming along. Waldsteinia or barren strawberry is a native groundcover that has little yellow strawberry-like flowers.  This isn’t a good photo but in the upper portion of the photo, up against the peonies is a growing section of tiarella. The white blossoms are so foamy that they don’t show up in a photo – even from this little distance.

lilacs

Lilacs

Not a great photo, but these are great old white lilacs that have been at the end of the road since long before we arrived. There are old lilac lilacs, too, but we have added pink Miss Canada and Pocahontas, the white Miss Ellen Willmott and the Beauty of Moscow. I just this moment noticed that these are all ladies.

Dandelions and violets

Dandelions and violets

There are other bloomers: the forsythia is going by; grape hyacinths in the lawn here and  there; a pot of sunny pansies; and of course, that common weed, the dandelion blooming in the lawn with violets and ground ivy. My own springtime flowery mead.

Carol, I am glad to be posting on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day once again. Thank you so much for hosting over at May Dreams Gardens. New dreams are coming true this May.

Monks Garden at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Monks Garden

Monks Garden at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

On Mother’s Day we went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum so I could revisit the Monks Garden , newly designed by Michael VanValkenburg in 2013. I wanted to see how it was filling out, and if it really went ‘crazy with hellebores” in the spring. This is where we entered on the graceful curving path.

Monks Garden

Monks Garden Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Visitors to the Museum can also enter the Monks Garden from one of the galleries. The trees are indeed filling out.

Monks Garden

Monks Garden Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Hellebores are very modest plants and it’s hard to see them going crazy, but the garden is certainly crazy with varieties of white daffodils that really stand out among other ground covers, and plants that will come into bloom later in the season.

Monks Garden

Monks Garden Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Because I am thinking how to create my own stroll garden I was paying particular to  the way the paths curved and split and joined again, embracing the beds of trees and flowers that provided so much privacy for the visitors.

Katsura at Monks Garden

Katsura at Monks Garden

The oldest tree in the garden is the ancient Katsura. All the shagbark maples, birches, stewartias and conifers are new.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard

Orchids in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard

Of course, there are many beautiful flowers and trees in the famous interior courtyard. And the new museum rule is that photos  are  allowed in the courtyard, and in the Monks Garden. Hooray!

A beautiful celebration for a hot Mother’s Day.

Perennials for the Cutting Garden

 

Peony

Peony

A cutting garden needs annuals to give you a particular blossom for your bouquets all season long, but it also needs perennials to give you blossoms in their season –  and more new plants next year.

In my garden the first perennials that make a big splash are the peonies. They bloom in June. I began growing early season peonies, but soon added late season peonies. My reasoning was that visitors to the Annual Rose Viewing, held the last Sunday in June, would have a glorious show of pink, white and red peonies, even if the roses were a little slow to bloom.

Peonies are a long lived plant, are mostly disease free, and need very little care. Unlike most perennials they don’t even need dividing. The clump will just get bigger and more beautiful every year. It used to be that you were supposed to plant peony roots in the fall, but nowadays you can go to many garden centers and buy a potted peony in the spring. The secret to success with peonies is good, well drained, slightly acid soil, and careful planting. Peony roots should be planted no more than two inches below the surface of the soil. If planted too deep they will not flower, although the foliage will thrive. The cure is to replant at a shallower depth.

Alchemilla or lady’s mantle blooms in May and June. This low growing perennial has round scalloped foliage that is very pretty, and useful, in flower arrangements. The lacy flowers are greenish, a striking element in any bouquet. Lady’s mantle spreads and makes a lovely ground cover as well as abundant flowers and foliage for bouquets.

Achillea 'Terra Cotta'

Achillea ‘Terra Cotta’

Achillea or yarrow is a care-free plant that is not fussy about soil, and is drought tolerant. It repels deer, but attracts bees and butterflies and gardeners who like a guarantee when they buy a plant. Yarrow guarantees success.

Yarrow usually grows to between 16 and 24 inches tall. It has flat flower heads with many tiny flowerets in shades of white, peach, red, yellow and gold.  Coronation Gold which also makes a great dried flower, and Moonshine are favorites. Terra Cotta is a favorite in my garden, and I keep waiting for Paprika to gain the orange tint that shows up in the catalogs. There is no guarantee that flowers in your garden will look exactly like their catalog images.

My granddaughter, a new gardener, was telling me she likes plants with straight stems. She planted tulips, but critters ate all the bulbs. I suggested she try alliums with tall straight stems like Globemaster, which grows to a height of over three feet with a 10 inch globe shaped violet flower head made of tiny star shaped blossoms. No deer or rodents go after these ornamental onion plants. Other varieties include the 8 inch purple Firmament with silver anthers, the Gladiator with 6 inch pinky-purple blossoms and Graceful Beauty which has more delicate white 3 inch blossoms. They all need rich, well drained soil and a sunny location. Alliums in an arrangement are very dramatic.

Helenium, heliopsis and gaillardia are three flowers that seem so similar to me that when I see them in the garden I never know which is which. Heliopsis has sunny yellow/gold petals and centers. Summer Nights and Summer Sun are between 3 and 4 feet tall Songbirds will love the seed in the fall and you will have endless bouquets.

Helenium 'Mardi Gras'

Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’

Helenium and gaillardia are daisy-like flowers in sunny colors, shades of yellow, gold, orange and red. Both come in similar colors but heleniums have slightly reflexed petals like a skirt, around deep brown mounded centers. They are about 3 feet tall. I have Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’ in my garden and it hearty, hardy and makes great bouquests.

Most gaillardias are smaller, and include varieties like Arizona Apricot and Goblin that are suitable for containers. Like the heleniums they have colorful rays arranged around a dark center. They need sun and well drained soil, and the bees love them.

The large dahlia family gives you everything you need in a cut flower, different flower forms and sizes, good long and strong stems, and a long vase life.

Most dahlias start to bloom in midsummer and there are many sizes from low growing tiny pom pom varieties to blossoms so large, 10 inches or more, that they are called dinner plate dahlias. Hummingbirds like dahlias. The Swan Island Dahlia catalog and website even have pages devoted to their best cut flower varieties.

Once you have your cutting garden you’ll be making bouquets on a regular basis. Some people have natural artistic talent. I cannot lay any claim to artistic talent at all, but putting together a bouquet is a relaxing activity, and in the end the flowers, leaves and grasses are so pretty in you can hardly make an unattractive bouquet. The flowers themselves will help and speak to you.

Needless to say there are many more excellent annuals, perennials, grasses, and bulbs suitable for flower arranging than I can include here. Years ago I bought A Garden for Cutting: Gardening for Flower Arrangements by Margaret Parke and it is a book I turn to time and again because it is so beautiful and inspiring. Used copies are available on Amazon, but there are new books like The Cut Flower Patch: Grow your own cut flowers all year round by Louise Curley.

A cutting garden is an easy way to have colorful flowers, and uncountable bouquets for your friends – and yourself.

Between the Rows   April 28, 2015

Sampler of White Flowers for Summer and Fall

Casa Blanca lilies

Casa Blanca lilies at Mike Collins and Tony Palumbo’s garden

Last week I talked about some of the white spring flowers, but a whole array of white flowers bloom well into the fall. I can only mention a few.

White Flowers for Summer

One of the more unusual white flowers that grows in my garden is Artemesia lactiflora. Most of us think of artemesias as having silvery foliage and insignificant flowers. My Artemesia lactiflora grows in a very upright clump with reddish-maroon stems and very dark toothed foliage. The tall flower stalks have open sprays of small white flowers. It’s very hardy, deer proof and a good spreader.

When I looked up online nurseries for Artemesia lactifllora I saw that all the descriptions said it grew from four to five feet tall. Not in my garden. Everyone agrees it is not a demanding plant, and some say drought tolerant. The Plant Delights catalog says given a damp spot it will be spectacular. My garden is well drained. Maybe that explains its meager three foot height. Or the problem may be that I do not have Artemesia lactiflora Guizhou a particular cultivar. I don’t remember where my plant came from.

Garden phlox is a gorgeous midsummer bloomer that comes in many colors. It seems to me that interest in tall garden phlox has declined recently, with a matching decline in cultivars. Often the only available white is David which gained its fame because of its mildew resistance. Powdery mildew does not damage phlox, or even migrate to another type of flower, but many people find it objectionable. Phlox has no other real problems. David starts blooming in August and lasts into September.

I recently found an online nursery, Perennial Pleasures in East Hardwick, Vermont that specializes in phlox and sells over 90 phlox cultivars including Flame White, a very short white phlox, Flower Power which begins blooming in mid-July, Midsummer White which is very tall, mildew resistant,  the earliest blooming of the phloxes and one of Perennial Pleasures favorites. There are other whites including the heirloom Miss Lingaard which is mildew resistant, and many other shades of pink, purple and blue.

Everyone loves daisies and Shasta daisies make it possible to have their cheerful blooms in the garden. Many Shasta daisies like Alaska grow to two feet or so and can get floppy, but that can be moderated by cutting them back in the spring. Tinkerbelle is a dwarf Shasta, only eight inches, and it is perfect for front of the border.

All Shasta daisies belong to the Chrysanthemum family, but are sometimes listed as Leucanthemum. Fluffy really looks more chrysanthemum-like with very double, shaggy flowers around a yellow center. Remember, all these summer bloomers like sun, good garden soil which should be enriched every year; they will tolerate some drought.

A wonderful vine is the pale moonflower vine. How lovely to have big white fragrant flowers that you can watch open as it gets dark. Moonflowers are like giant morning glories. Some people say they have trouble getting them to germinate, but soaking the seed for 24 hours can help with that. Once you have a thriving vine it may very well self-seed every year.

I grow white Henryi lilies near the house and they have been very happy at the end of my Herb Bed. I had the big glamorous white Casa Blanca lilies in the Lawn Beds, but deer always ate the swelling buds. If you don’t have deer Casa Blanca lilies are easy to grow and can tolerate some shade where they look especially beautiful. I haven’t had trouble with lily beetles, but that may be a blessing of the Heath climate.

Boltonia on Bridge of Flowers

Boltonia on Bridge of Flowers

White Flowers for Fall

Asters come into bloom in late summer and fall. Aster novi-belgii Bonningdale will reach a height of two feet or a little more and produce clusters of double white flowers around a yellow center. Asters should be treated like chrysanthemums by pinching them back until July 4 for stronger, bushier growth and more flowers. They should be deadheaded to prevent reseeding; Asters are tough long-lived plants that will make a substantial clump in two or three years when they can be divided. They are not fussy about soil.

Boltonia Snowbank, sometimes known as false aster or starwort, is a grand tall plant, up to five feet with starry daisy-like flowers. It can be pinched back in the spring or even be cut back for bushy growth in the fall. This is a vigorous plant that will need dividing every three years , but you can also dig up the new plantlets that spread out around the mother plant to give away. Because of its size and its exuberant bloom late into the fall this is a great addition to the perennial border. There is also a pink variety.

Before I started paying attention I thought of Japanese anemones as spring bloomers. However, it is Anemone sylvestris like Madonna that is the low growing anemone that blooms in the spring, in sun or shade and resistant to both deer and rabbits. Japanese anemone like the three foot tall Honorine Joubert blooms for a long season in late summer and well into the fall. Honorine Joubert has sprays of two inch flowers, white petals around a golden crown of stamens and a greenish center. Andrea Atkinson is similar except that it is shorter. Japanese anemones develop into generous clumps and they make quite a show in the fall.  In spite of their delicate appearance they have strong wiry stems. I have enjoyed mass plantings at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in September

Between the Rows   February 7, 2015

White Flowers That Bloom in the Spring – Tra la

Double bloodroot

Double bloodroot blooming on the Bridge of Flowers

As I look out at the newly white fields, I cannot help but think about the white flowers that bloom in the spring. There are so many, from shrubs, tall perennials, and low blooming groundcovers. White flowers bring a cool serenity to the garden and they are visible after sunset in the gloaming.

Many of us have a desk or a favorite chair by a window where we read or do other close work like quilting. When we look up from our work the view out that window gives our eyes a chance to rest on the longer view and our mind is refreshed by the peacefulness of that view. Over recent years I have become very aware of the views from my windows which are large expansive views across broad fields, but I am beginning to think about smaller, more intimate views that may be framed by new windows.

Some people love white flowers so much that they create a White Garden composed of foliage and a collection of white flowers that will bloom from spring into the fall. Sissinghurst, Vita Sackville West’s White Garden in England is one of the world’s most famous gardens. But you don’t need a whole garden designed around white flowers. White flowers will happily bloom alone or in joyous community with other color.

If you want a white garden that will glow in the gloaming, it is best to choose plants, including shrubs, that have some substance. I have three white lilacs that bloom in mid-May. One is the hedge of nameless white lilacs that have been growing and blooming here at the end of the road for decades. I bought Beauty of Moscow with its fat pale pink buds that open into double white blossoms locally, and the third is Miss Ellen Willmott, named for the woman who created the great gardens at Warley Place, a gift from a friend.

Lilacs are familiar to everyone, but a more unusual spring blooming shrub is fothergilla which reaches a height of about three to four feet and produces bottle brush blossoms in early to mid-May, when the foliage is just beginning to appear. There is a fothergilla on the Bridge of Flowers and it never fails to attract the attention of visitors.

Another suggestion from the Bridge of Flowers might be the stark white double bloodroot, a low growing native plant that begins blooming at the end of April. The double bloodroot is most definitely a substantial flower that spreads in the shade and would be noticeable from some distance away. This looks like a delicate spring flower but it is very hardy.

As far as I am concerned peonies share a great deal with lilacs. Both are tough carefree perennials that are subject to few diseases or insects. They are very hardy and will thrive for generations with little care. Festiva Maxima is an old white variety with a few crimson flecks among the petals. It is fragrant, as tough as they come, and among the first peonies to bloom in late May or early June. Bowl of Cream is another fragrant older variety; like Festiva Maxima the heavy blossoms are eight inches across.

There are many white peonies, old and new, that bloom in early, mid and late seasons. One of the benefits of peonies is how handsome the foliage remains after bloom is finished. It stays clean and green and makes a good background for other flowers perennial or annual, you may wish to plant in front.

Of course, one cannot talk about spring bloomers without talking about bulbs. Mount Hood is a tall trumpet daffodil with creamy buds that open pure white. This is a daff that makes a definite statement. Weena is a daff of similar size, pristine white with a rolled rim trumpet.  If you enjoy a bit of pink with your white daff, Pink Silk has a pale pink trumpet surrounded by white petals. Any daffodils should be planted in a generous group, or graceful waves.

All the plants that I have listed as spring bloomers have what I call substantial bloom that can be seen from a distance, from a house window or across a garden expanse. Still we do not want our gardens to bloom all in one note or one texture. There are more delicate whites that bloom as well. Snow Baby is a 4-8 inch pure white miniature trumpet daff that blooms very early in the spring. A clump of these would be lovely.

Cantabricus, from Brent and Becky, is even tinier than Snow Baby with white blossoms described as being megaphone shaped.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs and OldHouseGardens are two companies that have excellent and varied bulb collections, offering fall planted and summer blooming bulbs.

White Siberian irises

White Siberian irises

I have a group of white Siberian irises planted around out old dug well. They are so dainty looking but they are extremely hardy and carefree, spreading freely. These were growing in front of the house when we bought it and so are nameless. Snow Queen is a tall, three to four foot Siberian iris that you might find in nurseries now. An extra benefit of Siberian irises is that they do not mind damp sites, although they do perfectly well where it is drier.

Dodecatheon meadia or shooting star is another delicate native perennial with sharply reflexed petals that always gets attention on the Bridge of Flowers in mid-May.

Dodecatheon or Shooting Star

Shooting Star, Dodecatheon in mid-May

This is hardly a definitive list of white flowers, and yet I have only touched on white spring bloomers. There are so many other white flowers that I will continue with summer and fall bloomers next week.

Between the Rows   January 31, 2015