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Is Your Poinsettia an Annual or Perennial?

Poinsettia

Poinsettia

Do you treat your Christmas Poinsettia as an annual, and throw it way when it finally loses all those beautiful bracts, or do you care for it, baby it, and suffer its dormancy in order to bring it back into glorious bloom next December?

Can you guess which approach I take with a Christmas poinsettia?

I’ll give you a hint. This is my second poinsettia, a gift from my husband. I left my first one in the car. Overnight. Temperatures down to 10 degrees.

 

Mary Gardens for Meditation

Rosemary in Bloom

Rosemary in Bloom

Mary Gardens do not bloom in December, but since the liturgical season of Advent is a time of waiting for the momentous birth of the Christ Child I cannot help but think about what a confusing time it must have been for Mary.

All mothers waiting for the arrival of their first child often feel confused because emotions can range from frightened to joyous. What will the birth be like? What will the baby be like? What will the woman be like once she is a mother?

I think about Mary on that long donkey ride to Bethlehem. Mothers are weary and expectant during that last month of pregnancy as the baby comes closer and closer to being a reality. The very young Mary must still have been trying to get her mind around the memory of the angel who told her she would carry this special child, and the visit to her cousin Elizabeth which was more confirmation that this child was going to be very special.

In ancient times the pagan goddesses all had flowers associated with their personalities. For example, the rose and the lily are connected with Venus, denoting her love and her purity. Mary is a unique figure to all Christians; it is no surprise that over the centuries such a figure would have many stories grow up around her. In an age when most of the population was illiterate, symbols were important to storytelling. In Mary’s story various plants became symbols of her character and the events in her life. Some people have taken those symbols to create a Mary Garden where they might meditate on her life.

Most paintings of the Annunciation, show an angel appearing with a white lily to tell Mary that she would bear a son who would ‘be the greatest and shall be called the son of the Highest.” The lily, white for purity with a golden heart, is the first symbol of Mary and is considered essential to any Mary Garden. The second symbol, the iris, is more important because of its sword-like foliage than its flower. When Mary and Joseph presented the new baby in the templeSimeon said, “This child is destined to be a sign which men will reject; and you too shall be pierced to the heart.” Confusion upon confusion – angels, shepherds, wise men and dire warnings, and she just a new mother with a baby.

Mary came to be called the Mystical Rose and so roses are also necessary in a Mary garden. Thornless roses symbolize Mary who herself was declared born without sin, and all the roses with thorns stand for the rest of humanity with all their faults and failings. Roses for Mary are either white for purity, or red for the passion.

Myth and legend grew up around Mary and many flowers were thought to refer to her domestic life. I can imagine women over the ages thinking of the ways they share Mary’s duties and chores. Mending is no longer a major chore, but Mary’s Candle is one name for the giant mullein (Verbascum), its tall yellow flower spike standing in  for a candle that provided light for Mary while she mended the Christ Child’s clothing. Right by her side would have been her tools, Our Lady’s Thimble, otherwise known as the Bluebells of Scotland, and Our Lady’s Pincushion, the Scabiosa.

Many other flowers are connected with Mary from the common marigold which is Mary’s gold, only to be found in nature, the blue of forget-me-nots as clear as Mary’s eyes, and Our Lady’s Keys, the primrose. Some of these associations make more sense than others, but all are beautiful in a garden.

The first garden known to be dedicated to Mary was created by the Irish St. Fiacre in the 7th century. The first record of a Mary Garden was a 15th century listing of plants for the St. Mary’s garden written by the sacristan at the Norwich Priory in England.

The flowers in a Mary Garden are an aid to meditation. Spring brings us columbine for Mary’s shoes, and alchemilla for lady’s mantle for her cloak. Pulmonaria, and other plants with white mottled foliage have been called milkwort or Mary’s milkdrops. You can see that many flowers for a Mary Garden are humble cottage or wildflowers, as unassuming at Mary herself.

A Mary Garden could also include a ground cover like vinca (Virgin flower), foxglove or Our Lady’s Glove, pansies or Our Lady’s Delight, or lilies of the valley for the tears she shed after the crucifixion.

It is thought that the first Mary Garden in the United States was planted at St. Joseph’s Church in Woods Hole on Cape Cod in 1932. Full information about this garden, and MaryGardens in general can be found at the University of Dayton in Ohio,http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/resources/m_garden/marygardensmain.html.

Even if you don’t have an outdoor garden, you can have a Mary Garden. All it takes is an image of the Holy Mother, and potted plants like the prayer plant (Maranta leucoreura) whose foliage closes in the evening like praying hands, and rosemary. My own rosemary plant is producing tiny blue flowers right now, a reminder of the legend that on the flight to Egypt the Holy Family stopped so that Mary could wash the Christ Child’s clothes. She asked plants nearby if she could hang the wet clothes on them to dry but only the rosemary bush consented. To this day rosemary’s blue flowers are a reminder of Mary in her blue cloak.

When you need a respite from the happy holiday hullabaloo, take a few minutes to sit quietly with your plants, no matter which, and meditate on the joys of the season.

Don’t Forget: You can win a copy of Rochelle Greayer’s fabulous book Cultivating Garden Style, AND a copy of The Roses at the End of the Road by Yours Truly simply by leaving a comment here by midnight, December 13.  I will randomly choose a  winner of this Giveaway celebrating 7 years of blogging at commonweeder on Sunday, December 14. Thank you Timber Press.

Between the Rows   November 30, 2014

Surprises on Wordless Wednesday

Forgotten pansies

Forgotten pansies

This pot of pansies was all but forgotten until the sun shone on it this afternoon.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

This large clump of chrysanthemums is still blooming so energetically that it refuses to be forgotten.

For more Wordlessnes this Wednesday click here.

Fall Clean Up in the Garden

 

Lawn Bed -  put to bed

Lawn Bed – put to bed

The weather has been kind to those of us who procrastinate and go about fall clean up in the garden with a little less energy than we once had. Right now I am buckling down and in the midst of working through my to-do list.

I got an early start in the vegetable garden in late September. I pulled out finished squash and bean plants and put all that biomass in the compost bin. All the empty beds in the Potager and the Early Garden right in front of the house were weeded, and I dug in finished, or nearly finished, compost. I am in the process of refreshing my paths with cardboard and wood chips.

Sometimes we have to evaluate the plants in our gardens. There are many reasons for deciding to remove a plant. Perhaps it didn’t do well because conditions were not quite right. Perhaps it didn’t live up to the fantasy one had when choosing it. Perhaps one simply doesn’t like it anymore.  I got rid of the bright pink Alma Potchke aster last year. It has a funny name and is very pretty, but she just no longer appealed. I think the pink turtlehead (Chelone) is doomed this year. The deer like it too much and I’d rather have flashier flowers.

The plants that have to leave my garden will go to the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale in May. I am digging them up and keeping them in a vegetable bed in the Potager.

Other plants that will end up in a vegetable bed for the winter are those that need dividing. This year I am dividing three different astilbes, a white, a pink and a graceful pink ostrich astilbe, as well as Mardi Gras helenium, Echinacea and Japanese anemone. One division will stay in the garden and the other divisions will go into the Plant Sale, or to a friend.

Perennials need to be divided periodically to keep the garden in scale, and sometimes for their own health. Those divisions also allow us to be generous and that is a very good feeling.

It is time to cut back those perennials that have finished blooming. This will make things neater and easier on the gardener in the spring when there is so much to do.  Of course, if you have plants with interesting seed heads that will attract the birds that spend the winter you will want to leave them.

Last year I did not cut back the daylilies in the fall, but I will not repeat that mistake. Cutting back plants reveals weeds that are hiding beneath the foliage. Hidden weeds, and weeds that are all too obvious should be pulled out. Fall weeding seems easier to me than spring weeding. The weeds don’t seem to have as good a hold on the earth in the fall as they do in the spring.

Honey Badger Garden Gloves

Honey Badger Garden Gloves

I was given a new glove to try out. The Honey Badger garden glove has three hard plastic claws on the fingers of one hand. As long as the soil is not packed hard, these claws have proved very efficient at helping me get underneath the roots of weeds when I am cleaning out the flower beds. Somehow I seem to work best in the garden on my knees, and directly with my hands whenever possible.

I am not done with weeding and dividing, but the peonies have all been cut back and weeded. I have one Lawn Bed section that has been cut back, weeded, and divided. I topped the soil off with some old cleanings from the henhouse (no more hens) and then sprinkled some old wood chips on top of that. The bed isn’t terribly photogenic but to my eyes it looks neater and ready for a floriferous spring.

Since I have been using my finished compost I have room in the bins to make new compost. I can use the foliage of cut back plants and frosted vegetables, but I am cautious about the weeds I include. No galinsoga or weeds with roots that I think will love spending the winter in delicious compost.

Leaves blow right off our hill but I did help a neighbor bag up some leaves and took them for my compost pile. Leaves are a valuable resource and I take all I can use.

My spade and garden forks are still in daily use, as are my hand tools including the pruners. Soon it will be time to clean them carefully. Actually, it is good to clean tools, especially clippers and pruners, after every use, and I try very hard to make this a routine. I keep a rag near my tool trug as a reminder.

Finally, you might make some notes. I try to do this all season long, partly because I am apt to be forgetful about plant names. I keep a little garden journal, with weather notes for (almost) every day, and notes about what I have done that day. Notes about activities help remind me of the general progress of the season. When I buy, or otherwise acquire, new plants I put in as much of the proper name as I can. This makes it easier to recommend them, or avoid them in future.

How far have you gotten with your fall clean up? According to my Farmer’s Almanac the rest of October will be mild. We can procrastinate a little more, but not too much.

10-20 Sheffies

Not everything is cut back. It is nice to have a few blooms! I think the flowers above are Sheffield Daisies. Maybe.

Between the Rows  October 18, 2014

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – October 2014

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day arrives this October after two hard freezes. The trees are richly adorned adding most of the garden color at this time of the year. The roses are very nearly done, but Thomas Affleck, right near the door, has nearly a dozen blossoms left. In the rest of the garden there are a few scattered rugosa blossoms, and The Fairy is still making a bit of magic.

Sedum 'Neon'

Sedum ‘Neon’

This is the second year for Sedum ‘Neon.” I will have to do some dividing. The Fairy is right behind her, as well as a snapdragon and a foxglove blooming at this odd time of year.

Chrysanthemum 'Starlet'

Chrysanthemum ‘Starlet’

“Starlet’ is a very hardy quilled mum that I keep moving around the garden.

Sheffield daisies

Sheffield daisies

The Sheffield daisies  are just beginning to bloom!  At least I have been calling these Sheffield daisies all year before they came into bloom, and now I am thinking they are some other very vigorous chrysanthemum. I have one clump of ‘mums’ not yet blooming. Maybe that is the Sheffie clump.

Asters

Asters

This low growing and very spready aster is definitely ‘Woods Blue.’ I just found the label while weeding today.

Montauk daisy

Montauk daisy

I am coming to realize that the Montauk daisy has quite a short bloom period. Maybe it doesn’t deserve to be so front and center.

Autumn crocus

Autumn crocus

A flower that does deserve to be more front and center is the Autumn Crocus. It is invisible in August when it should be transplants. Out of sight. Out of mind. Maybe next August.

'Limelight' hydrangea

‘Limelight’ hydrangea

The ‘Limelight’ hydrangea has had a good year and is doing better than ‘Pinky Winky’ planted at the same time, and the native oakleaf hydrangea. The enormous ‘Mothlight’ is also still blooming.

Lonicera sempervirens

Lonicera sempervirens

I am going to have to do something about this honeysuckle. She has grown enough this first full year and deserves to be arranged so she is more easily admired.

Cuphea

Cuphea

This annual potted Cuphea has given me a lot of pleasure this summer. Endless bloom.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

I plant these nasturtiums on the slope between the Daylily Bank and a bed of the Early garden right in front of the house. Such a cheerful flowers.

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding

And finally, in a knocked down tangle is Love Lies Bleeding. A right bloody mess. I expected long drooping tails of blossoms, but this looks like ropes of chenille balls.

What is blooming in your garden this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day?  Check Carol at May Dreams Gardens, our welcoming host.

Asters and Mums – and Sheffies

Asters

Asters

Returning from a few days away I was happy to see that the asters are still blooming.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

These sunny quilled mums don’t look like the cold and the rain bothered them at all.

Montauk daisies

Montauk daisies

The Montauk daisies have started to bloom!

Sheffies - Sheffield daisies

Sheffies – Sheffield daisies

Do think I can now say that the Sheffies, my late blooming Sheffield daisies, are finally blooming?  I leave it up to you.

When Will My Sheffield Daisies Bloom?!

Sheffield Daisies October 4, 2014

Sheffield Daisies October 4, 2014

It is hard to believe these are Sheffield daisies. They could be any chrysanthemum – except that my chrysanthemum is blooming.

Sheffield daisies closeup

Sheffield daisies closeup

I look closely at the Sheffield daisy buds to see if they look like they might be ready to open, or at least to be showing color. Why are they so late to bloom?  The summer was very cool for the most part. And dry in late August and all through September, but I did occasionally give them a deep watering. We recently had a couple of very warm sunny days and I hoped that would give them a big dose of encouragement, but alas, no.

Sheffield daisies October 14, 2013

Sheffield daisies October 14, 2013

Here is the answer to my question. When I went back to look at last year’s Sheffies I found that on October 14, 2013, when I was preparing for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the 15th, the Sheffield daisies were just beginning to bloom. Lot and lots of buds yet to open. I guess I just have to hold on to the hope that this October will be mild right up to November so I will have more of these wonderful blossoms to enjoy. They were still blooming last year on October 28. You can see that one of the reasons a blog is useful, not just fun, it because it is a great record book!

Dahlia Season on the Bridge of Flowers

Dahlias on the Bridge of Flowers

Dahlias on the Bridge of Flowers

As a member of the Bridge of Flowers committee I am always happy when a visitor eloquently admires dahlia season on the Bridge of Flowers. Or any bloom season. Recently the Fine Gardening Magazine website featured a number of photos of the Bridge, and comments by Andy Engel of Fine Homebuilding Magazine – who finally followed the signs to the Bridge. To see his photos click here.

I have taken my own photos of the Bridge this season. Here is a sample.

Double bloodroot May 1

Double bloodroot May 1

Not all the flowers are as flashy as the dahlias, but we are very proud of our double bloodroot that bloom early in the spring. We usually have a few divisions to sell at the Annual May Plant Sale.

Azaleas  May 7

Azaleas May 7

The Bridge is a perfect example of a Mixed Border that incorporates, blooming shrubs, trees, vines, perennials, annuals and a few grasses.

Tulips May 25

Tulips May 25

Tulips can be pretty flashy in May and June.

Roses June 25

Roses June 25

June is the month of roses for me, but there are roses blooming on the Bridge into September.

 

Daylilies July 19

Daylilies July 19

Shady greens July

Shady greens July

The many shades of green have their own beauty and fascination.

 

Lilies August 1

Lilies August 1

Daylilies and other kinds of lilies in many colors all through August.

Phlox and crocosmia August 1

Phlox and crocosmia August 1

Never a dull moment.

Gladiola August 26

Gladiola August 26

Gladiolas are not usually my favorite, but I cannot resist this one.

 

Asters - September

Asters – September

And here we  are – back to September – but not for long – and asters as well as dahlias – and many many others. To call this Dahlia Season on the Bridge of Flowers is actually not very descriptive. I hope you will all come and visit.

Birds and Blooms for Every Gardener

Birds and Blooms Magazine

Birds and Blooms Magazine

In spite of its name, Birds AND Blooms, I always thought of this magazine as concentrating on Birds. However, I’ve been looking at it from time to time and have come to  realize that it has lots of  good information for gardeners, too.

In fact, as we all become more aware of  the pressures on our environment, climate change, depredations of host environments for migrating birds,  and a  simple desire to attract those ‘flowers of the air” birds and butterflies to our garden, this magazine can be very useful. Features that focus on gardens, focus on those plants  that are going to attract those other beautiful “flowers.” Who can complain about that.

The current issue has a useful story about the wide variety of coral bells, heucheras, that are now available. I have written about these myself because of their many shades of foliage from green to gold, to burnished reds. I was intersted in color, but it is also true that hummingbirds enjoy coral bells. What a bonus. Another story reminds us that fall is a good time to plant perennials and makes it clear that while flowers and foliage may fade at this time of the year, roots are still going and growing strong. The soil is warm, and roots will continue to grow until it freezes. Besides, there are great bargains at garden centers and other businesses that sell potted perennials. As long as plants don’t look diseased they can be a great buy. Bring them home, give them a deep watering, and then plant them. Keep them watered because those roots are taking hold. You’ll have a great plant ready to bloom in the spring.

Right now you can get a free first issue by ordering at www.birdsandblooms.com/FreeExtra and get 8 issues for $12.98.  The holidays are coming and this is a great gift for gardeners – and birders.

What’s Blooming on September 1 at the End of the Road

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

What’s blooming on September 1? As we acknowledge that even though it isn’t officially autumn, we notice the days are shorter, and a maple or sumac branch here and there has begun waving scarlet in the sunlight, the bloom goes on.  Thomas Affleck is the only rose, as usual, that has much to show at this time of the year, although there is a stray blossom here and there on the Rose Walk. The ruogosa hips are ripening.

Garden phlox and more

Garden phlox and more

This section of the North Lawn Bed is closest to the house. The garden phlox is putting on quite a show. Echinacea, Russian sage, and bits of lobela and dianthus are also still blooming.

Garden phlox and more

Garden phlox and more

In the middle of that bed more phlox is blooming as well as chelone, liatris, and The Fairy rose. Unseen is the blue toremia, my favorite new annual this year.

Helenium 'Mardi Gras' and phlox

Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’ and phlox

In the end of the bed Helenium “Mardi Gras is blooming with Phlox “Blue Paradise’, I think. I hope the Montauk daisy will bloom soon.

 

Yarrow, phlox, hydrangea

Yarrow, phlox, hydrangea

A bold yellow yarrow, a bit of phlox, aconite, a small annual daisy, toremia (again invisible) bloom in a tangleat the end of the South Lawn Bed.

Robustissima Japanese aneomone

“Robustissima” Japanese anemone

The Japanese anemone is just beginning to bloom, next to a small Joe Pye weed. The deer dined off this clump, but with a little luck I will still see a good show.

"Ann Varner' Daylily

” Ann Varner” daylily

The Daylily bank is pretty well done, but “Ann Varner” is bravely facing the end of the season.  Other bloomers, bee balm, Achillea ‘The Pearl’, potted cuphea, geraniums, and Love Lies Bleeding.

What’s blooming in your garden as we begin to feel the turning of the season?