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Water Gardens on Bloom Day – August 2018

bloom day

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day waterworks

On this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day the big event is water and more water. Just to give you the full force you  can see  how deep the water is right in front of the garden shed at the back of the garden. This is the worst spot, and it is the beginning of the lake the garden has become.

Black eyed susans

Black eyed susans in the bed nearest the back door

One of my hose guard wine bottles in ready to float away.


Thalictrum aka meadow rue

Meadow rue has such tiny delicate flowers it doesn’t photograph very well, at least not for me, but I love it and don’t want to leave it off the Bloom Day list.

Cardinal Flower, daylilies 'altissima' and joe pye weed

Cardinal Flower, daylilies ‘altissima’ and joe pye weed

Beyond the joe pye weed is  the dappled willow – thriving in the flood – but it confuses the photo.

Joe pye weed

A different joe pye weed

This joe pye weed grows on the other side of the garden, next to a lavender Monarda fistulosa that is too weary and laid down to be photographed.

Honeysuckle and morning glories

Honeysuckle and morning glories

Set against the south fence the honeysuckle and Grandpa Ott morning glories don’t suffer very much.

Hydrangeas, phlox, roses

Hydrangeas, phlox, roses

These hydrangeas, phlox and roses are growing in the South Border, the driest part of the garden. the closer you get to the back garden, the wetter it gets.

Flowery hellstrip (tree strip) in front of the house

Flowery hellstrip (tree strip) in front of the house

I can give a nice Bloom Day hooray when we get to the hellsrip – echinacea, yarrow, still a couple of daylilies, Centaurea montana, and bee balms.  The rain has given rise to many many weeds.

Bloom day

A final Bloom Day view

On  this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day I give thanks for plants like the blacked susans and to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who hosts a day when we can all share the delights and challenges of our gardens.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Entry to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Gardeners plant flower gardens in their backyards, but Mother Nature loves to plant flower gardens along the highways and by-ways. I am often surprised by how many flowers thrive in sandy soil and survive the salting of roads in winter. I drive around town and I see familiar flowers in Mother Nature’s gardens like orange daylilies, blue chicory and Queen Anne ’s lace.

While I enjoy roadside gardens, it was Lady Bird Johnson who took the appeal and usefulness of these gardens to a whole new level. In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson promoted the passing of the Highway Beautification Act, but this legislation, more informally known as Lady Bird’s Bill because of her promoting the idea of beautiful highways, changed the landscape as new national highways were being established in every direction in those years. As far as I can tell that bill and all its many subsequent amendments mostly had to do with placement of advertising billboards and junk yards.

Engleman Daisy at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Engleman daisy at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

I can well imagine Mrs. Johnson being happy to have those eyesores removed, but it is also clear to me from my own memories of those days that she thought beauty in the form of flowers, along the highways, and everywhere else, could make the world better and people happier. She once wrote in her diary,”The subject of Beautification is like a tangled skein of wool, the threads are interwoven—recreation and pollution and mental health and the crime rate and rapid transit and highway beautification and the war on poverty and parks … everything leads to something else.”

Because of her belief in the power of beauty in 1982 Mrs. Johnson and the actress Helen Hayes created a wildflower center in East Austin with the goal of restoring the beauties of the landscape and preserving all the native wildflowers of that area and throughout our whole country.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Blanket Flower at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

I am very happy to say that Lady Bird Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford in 1977. The citation for her medal read: “One of America’s great First Ladies, she claimed her own place in the hearts and history of the American people. In councils of power or in homes of the poor, she made government human with her unique compassion and her grace, warmth and wisdom. Her leadership transformed the American landscape and preserved its natural beauty as a national treasure.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has grown over the years and is now operated by the University of Texas at Austin. I got to visit the Wildflower Center during my Texas trip early this spring. I visited my daughter and her family, and then toured gardens with 94 other garden bloggers. I spent about half an hour among the Wildflower Center gardens snapping photos of native Texas area flowers as fast as possible because the weather was threatening and it did not take long for the skies to open. Torrential rains fell. Along with my sister garden bloggers I ran to the Wildflower Center gift shop where we spent the next hour looking at books about Texas wildflowers, earrings in the shape of honeybees or butterflies, jars of honey (would we have to give them up at the airport as possible bomb material?), beflowered socks and hats and scarves, dishes with flower designs, flowered umbrellas and just about every other flower item you can imagine.

During my brief time in the gardens I was happy to see that the flower beds included lots of labels. While many of the plants would not grow in New England, many of them would be perfectly happy in Massachusetts: bee balm, coreopsis, gaillardia (blanket flower), gayfeather (liatris), fleabane and others.

Our tour bus drove us through the continuing rain to our next garden. We all paid particular attention to the medians and verges along the highway this time as we looked at the native plants growing among the grasses in these unmown spaces. This is the kind of beauty that Lady Bird Johnson was hoping for as highway beautification. At least that is my memory.

Lady Bird Johnson thought highways could have flowery meadows on the verges and median

I am disappointed that we don’t have that kind of beautification along our Massachusetts highways. I understand that we don’t want invasive plants like knotweed pulling down our sound barriers, or tall plants dangerously interfering with sight lines. However, many perennial native plants and grasses are not very tall. Neither are they invasive, although they will return again the following year. In addition, I would think money could be saved by having an annual autumn mowing, instead of multiple mowings that certainly keep the I-91 median very neat.

Even without highway “gardens” we are fortunate in our rural area to enjoy Mother Nature’s gardens as we drive along our lesser highways. Great banks of Queen Anne’s Lace grow along the roads providing a really great show. At this time of year they are often joined by drifts of goldenrod, both of them attracting hoards of bees and other insects who are collecting pollen and nectar. We don’t have to drive far to see and enjoy these gardens, especially in summer and fall.###

Between the Rows   August 4, 2018

Torrential Rainfall, Backyard Flood, Watery Paths

torrential rainfall

Rain gauge measures torrential rainfall

The torrential rainfall began late in the day. It was not constant, but when we woke up this morning the rain gauge very clearly said another 2 and 3/4 inches of rain had fallen. There has never been a summer quite like this with temperatures in the 90s and many heavy rainfalls.

Results of torrential rainfalls

Results of torrential rainfalls

This photo shows the ankle deep water in the widest path to the back of the garden and the shed. The very large shrub in  the middle of the photo is a red twig dogwood and it has thrived in the rains. The Lindera benzoil, planted to attract Swallowtail butterflies, does not appear to have minded the rain too much. Neither has the raspberry patch just beyond the dogwood, although I will say the crop has been limited, partly because the berries rot so quickly with all the wet.

Central watery path

Central watery path

I walked through this watery path in my bare feet. Blue jeans rolled up. Last weekend we took friends on a tour of the garden. Everyone had to wear boots, or go barefoot. We were walking in last week’s torrential rainfall that day.

Another watery path

Another watery path

Can you tell I am trying to show you the full force of the effect of rain in my garden?

Hose guards

Hose guards are partially submerged

My homemade wine bottle hose guards are well submerged.  Because we knew the back yard was wet when we bought the house, we did create raised beds with yards and yards of compost, compo-soil and compo-mulch from our wonderful nearby Martin’s Compost Farm. Now when we have torrential rains the planting beds look like islands in a lake.

Southwest corner of the garden

The southwest  corner of the garden is probably the wettest part of the garden. The winding gravel path was intended to help handle rainfall. It helps, but it does not eliminate standing water as you can see. The water on the left side of the photo continues past the swamp pinks, past the raspberry patch and the redtwig dogwood. Which you have already seen.

Path and shed

Garden shed and reflections

We love our little garden shed. Aren’t the reflections in the ‘lake’ pretty?

We knew we were getting a wet garden when we bought our house. We planned accordingly. Here is a list of water tolerant – and sometimes water-loving – plants we chose.

Water-loving: Red twig dogwood, yellow twig dogwood, osier dogwood, pagoda dogwood, summersweetwinterberry,  dappled willow, elderberry,  buttonbush, Japanese primroses, river birch

Water tolerant: Daylilies, turtlehead, Siberian irises, Culver’s root,  bog rosemary, cardinal flowermeadow rueobedient plant, Joe Pye weed.

It was fortunate we knew this was a wet site, with an underground river and heavy clay soil. Happily there are lots of beautiful water loving plants to fill a wet garden.

Strings for Kids and Music on the Common

strings for kids ensemble

Strings for Kids ensemble

This ensemble of Strings for Kids played  for shoppers at the Farmer’s Market a couple of weeks ago. They are serious and talented musicians.

Strings For Kids is a free music program run by Artspace in collaboration with Greenfield Public Schools. Students who enroll in Strings For Kids are offered a choice of learning to play violin or cello, and receive the following benefits at no charge:

  • Instrument loan for the duration of enrollment
  • Weekly in-school group instruction led by Artspace faculty
  • Guidance on self-directed daily practice
  • Weeklong summer intensives for both incoming and returning students
  • Opportunities to perform at school meetings, Artspace recitals, and occasionally at other venues

Many of  these young people also play in the Youth Orchestra. There are also students longing to play but there are not enough cellos. Hence the informal concert – and the open violin case.

Strings for Kids Violins and Cellos

Strings for Kids – Violins and Cellos

After they have learned to play their instruments and proved a measure of skill and dedication they can audition for the Youth Orchestra which is operated by the Pioneer Valley Symphony and Chorus.

Artspace is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and relies on donors to provide free musical education in the Greenfield Public Schools and to keep our community vibrant through promotion of and instruction in the arts.  Artspace’s address is located at 15 Mill Street, Greenfield, MA 01301. Mark your check to Strings for Kids. They really need those extra cellos.

My Life With Hydrangeas

Angel's Blush Hydrangea

Angel’s Blush Hydrangea blossooms in 2017

As long ago as 1945 I had an opinion about hydrangeas. In 1945 I was five years old and living with my parents, and my two younger brothers, in the Bronx. When the weekend weather was fine my parents often took all of us on a stroll through the neighborhood. We lived in an apartment building surrounded by cement, but there were many houses on our street that had tiny front yards that often showed off one or two hydrangeas with fat balls of blue flowers. I took against those blue hydrangea blossoms, but I can give you no reason for my dislike.

I don’t recall many occasions when hydrangeas played any part in my life after that until 1971 when I moved to Greenfield. Three straggly white hydrangeas held up their weary heads in front of my new front porch. I immediately pulled them out.

In subsequent wanderings, to Maine and Manhattan I began to feel more friendly towards hydrangeas. There was no more reason for my growing affection than there had been for my disaffection. We moved to Heath in 1979 and I began to plant gardens. Most of my attention and energy went to vegetables and what was to become our Rose Walk. Not a hydrangea in site. Years passed.

One day, I was looking at the plants at a small nursery (soon to be the New England Wildflower Nasami Farm) in Whately owned by Bob and Nancy August. Mrs. August was minding the plants that day. I wandered and kept coming back to a small young hydrangea with airy white blossoms named Mothlight. These blossoms were nothing like heavy mopheads. I considered it for quite a long time, and finally decided to buy. As Mrs. August and I were chatting, she commented on my odd limping gait and suggested that I do something about my hip. That was a bit of a wake up call. And I did do something about my hip. I got a new one. She made me realize I didn’t really have to hobble about any more. I was grateful to her for her advice and for the Mothlight.

Mothlight Hydrangea

Mothlight Hydrangea in Heath 2015

The Mothlight hydrangea grew very large in Heath which surprised me, but the white blossoms retained their delicate airy-ness.  I later added a Limelight hydrangea which has pale chartreuse blossoms, and Pinky Winky which begins white and turns pink over the season. I also planted the white flowered native oak leaf hydrangea. It was my intention to have these three large shrubs form a kind of long flowering hedge at the eastern edge of my lawn. There it got morning shade and plenty of sun the rest of the day.

When we left Heath I realized that hydrangeas would be perfect for the low maintenance garden I was planning in Greenfield. The land next to my neighbor’s driveway is about the driest spot on our property. Hydrangeas, like roses, do not like ‘wet feet.’ I chose Limelight once again, and I also chose Angel’s Blush which is white but becomes rosy in the fall. Firelight was my final choice which becomes a dark pinky-red in the fall.

Except for the native oak leaf hydrangea, all the hydrangeas I’ve ever planted are paniculatas. This was really by chance, but I chose them because they are hardy and very dependable. They can all become quite tall and have conical flowers. Paniculatas and H. arborescens like Annabelle bloom on new wood, which means they should be pruned in the late winter or very early spring. Since they bloom on new wood, it won’t matter to them if the winter has been harsh causing winterkill. Prune them back and the new growth will provide new flowers.

Annabelle has been a popular hydrangea. It is native to North America and very dependable. It will grow about three to five feet tall  with a similar spread and the large white flowers resemble mopheads. When one of my young relatives married in August a few years ago the wedding was held at an estate where ranks of Annabelles blossomed on a severely terraced hill. Interspersed with the hydrangeas were clumps of airy white obedient plant. It was an elegant arrangement, and certainly perfect for a wedding celebration.

The big blue hydrangea blossoms I found so distasteful in my childhood were mopheads. Perhaps I intuitively knew that they were trouble. Hydrangea macrophylla blooms on old wood which means if there is a bad winter the buds will be killed and there will be no bloom. They can then be pruned but there will be no flowers for another year when the new growth counts as old wood. If there is winterkill there is no help except pruning out deadwood and cultivating patience. For regular maintenance you can prune out a few branches each year which will encourage a steady renewal.

Climbing hydrangea

Climbing hydrangea on Bridge of Flowers

I love H. quercifolia, the climbing hydrangea.  They can climb trees, or walls and are beautiful and really stunning. They take a while to get going, but the patience it takes is worth it.

All hydrangeas like sun but can take some shade. They need regular watering, but definitely do not like waterlogged soil.

There is a hydrangea for every garden, in every color and size, including small varieties that can be grown in a container.  What’s your pleasure?

Between the Rows   July 28, 2018

Tall Perennials, Statuesque and Beautiful

Actea racemosa

Cimicifuga or Actea racemosa, a very tall perennial, on the Bridge of Flowers, blooming as happily in sun as shade

Using shrubs is one way to take up room in a garden, but it is also possible to have tall perennials serve the same function. I have several tall perennials in my garden that I realize are not well placed, partly because they are overcrowding each other. I will be reorganizing them in the fall. In the meantime I want to suggest some tall, dare I say statuesque, perennials that can make quite a statement in a flower border.

Right now Filipendula rubra, queen of the prairie, is producing delicate pink astilbe-like flowers on which can reach six to eight feet. The deeply cut bright green leaves are as fragrant as the flowers.  It is easy to grow and tolerant of wet sites and clay soil. Even though it can become very tall it does not need staking making it ideal for back of the garden border. It likes the sun, but can tolerate some shade. Tall plants like this make a really dramatic clump.

If you have a shady spot Actaea racemosa, formerly known as Cimicifuga, and always also known as black cohosh, can reach a height of six feet. If the site is particularly fertile and damp, the one to two foot white spires rising from the dark foliage can reach a height of eight feet. Depending on the site and weather, it can begin blooming in July, August or September. It stays in bloom for at least three weeks. This stunning plant also serves as a host plant and nectar source for the Spring Azure butterfly (Celastrina ladon).  I had this growing in my Heath garden and it was a real attention grabber glowing as it did in the shade of an ancient apple tree. Cimicifuga seems to enjoy the sun just as much blooming as it does on the Bridge of Flowers.

Culver's root

Tall Culver’s root

Another tall native plant is Culver’s root, Veronicastrum virginicum which will reach a height of seven feet including the nine inch spikes of small white flowers. It needs damp to wet soil and will bloom in July and August. To extend the bloom season, cut back the spent flower. You can even cut it back to the basal leaves and possibly get a second flush. Like the queen of the prairie, Culver’s root, is a good choice for a rain garden. It also attracts butterflies.

Joe Pye weed, Eutrochium purpureum, is known to many people as a roadside weed, but there are different species in the Eutrochium genus. That explains why one Joe Pye weed in my garden looks nothing like the roadside variety, and the second Joe Pye weed looks nothing like either one because it has variegated foliage. What they all have in common is their size, up to six or seven feet, and mauve dome-like flowers that appeal to many butterflies and bees. There is a dwarf Baby Joe that will not grow taller than three feet and has blooms in a deeper shade of purple. Joe Pye weed is another plant that will thrive in a rain garden.


Boltonia will stand on its own – lounge on a fence

Boltonia is another wonderful plant that can reach a height of six feet and will need little or no staking. Having said that I have to say that the boltonia on the Bridge of Flowers is very happy to be able to lean on the wire fence behind it. From August through September Boltonia is covered with tiny white daisy like flowers. Once in a while those white petals will have a pink or mauve tint. For a slightly more sturdy and compact plant  Boltonia asteroides var. latisquama‘Snowbank’ (3-4’ tall) might be a good choice if you are not necessarily looking for a statuesque beauty, but are looking for lush autumnal blom.

I have two very tall perennials in my garden. Right now my giant meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum) with its cloud of tiny lavender blossoms is about eight feet tall. This is an unusual height; six feet is more common. It is a hardier plant than you might imagine looking at the delicacy of its flowers and its foliage which looks very similar to the foliage of the spring columbine. I planted it a couple of feet into the garden bed, but this spring the few stems I had last year sent out about a million babies.  I pulled out a lot of those babies, but it was hard to get rid of them all, even when I tried. Right now the meadow rue and the variegated Joe Pye weed look like passionate kissin’ cousins right at the edge of the bed. They will bloom into September.

The other equally tall perennial is Hemerocallis ‘Altissima.’ It has not yet reached its full height, but this daylily will be at least six feet tall. Like all daylilies, it has increased each year and in the fall I will have to divide it.

I have certainly not named every tall perennial available for the backyard garden. I visited a friend some years ago who used perennial sunflowers (Helianthus) to create a hedge on one side of his corner garden. Another friend lined a walkway with a profusion of lacy white fleece flowers (Persicaria polymorpha) reaching six feet tall. Delphiniums can be tall, from four to six feet, but there are smaller varieties as well. They come in a range of blues, and white as well.

A striking tall annual flower is the deep red Love-lies-bleeding, Amaranth, that can reach five feet and is useful in fresh or dried flower arrangements.

Tall or small, there is always great variety for the flower garden.

Between the Rows  July 21, 2018

Stone Meadow Gardens, Ashfield – More Daylilies

Olga Daylily

Olga daylily at Stone Meadow Gardens

I was very happy to learn that Stone Meadow Gardens is a daylily farm near me, less than half an hour away in Ashfield. After checking out their online catalog I zipped right up there this past Sunday. I knew that I would find more than the three daylilies I needed from among the 500 varieties Phil Pless and Linda Taylor have growing.

Fooled Me daylily

Fooled Me daylily

Shyness daylilies

Shyness daylilies

Watson Park Tempest daylily

Watson Park Tempest daylily

Peach Sherbert Daylily

Peach Sherbert Daylily

Ed Murray is a little blurry, the fault of my camera skills. I wanted to give a hint of the color range.

Stone Meadow Gardens is open on Friday through Sunday until August 5. However, you can make an appointment through August and into September. You can also order from the online catalog and have the daylilies shipped before the end of September. You will still have time for the plants to settle in before the onslaught of winter.

Phil washed the soil off my 5 plants and wrapped them up in recycled plastic bags, ready for immediate planting. I really wanted to get them all in the ground before the promised rains and I did. I watered them in myself, of course, but the 2 inches of rain we got during the night was very welcome. More rain coming.

I think September is a fine time to plant daylilies, whether newly purchased or divided. There is enough time to settle in before winter and they’ll be raring to go in the spring. Check out the website and see just how many daylilies you still need.


Daylilies – Beautiful and Trouble Free


The name of these daylilies is gone, but not its appeal

Daylilies seem like a quintessential American flower, its orange blossoms blazing as they do along the edges of summer byways. And yet daylilies have an ancient history beginning in China about 5000 year ago. Chi Pai wrote a materia medica for Emperor Huang Ti dating back to 2697 B.C. when the flowers were more used medically than for ornament.

By 1500 C.E. the daylily had travelled to Europe. In 1793 Linneaus, who introduced the binomial system of nomenclature, placed daylilies in the genus Hemerocallis in the Liliaceae family. Perhaps it was as this flower passed through Greece that it was given the name Hemerocallis. The Greek word hemera means a day and kallos means beauty, hence beautiful for a day. It was a sad day for me when I learned about beautiful for a day. I picked a bouquet of daylilies for a dinner party (many many years ago) and found the blossoms all closed and wilting by the time my guests arrived.

Siloam Double Classic daylily

I think this daylily is Siloam Double Classic

Their history clearly shows that daylilies are tough plants that do not need a lot of fussing. They like a sunny spot and a fertile well-drained soil, but it is interesting to note that they are listed among the plants suitable for a rain garden. Still, while rain gardens are designed to collect a lot of rain water, they are also designed to allow that water to sink deep into the ground within a day or two.

Lemon Madeleine daylily

Lemon Madeleine daylily has a different form

Whether your daylilies are in a rain garden or not keep them well watered in the spring when they are setting buds.

Fertilizing in the spring is a good idea. My friend and sister garden blogger Dee Nash grows lots of daylilies. She suggests using fertilizers high in nitrogen. This will help with bloom, but also encourage an increase in the size of the clump. I noticed that the Farmer’s Cooperative Exchange sells organic Espoma Urea fertilizer which would fill the bill. Actually, if you have good soil you might only need to fertilize every two years. It is also a good idea to have your soil tested periodically to make sure it is not getting out of balance.



Ann Varner daylily

Mulching after planting, or doing any necessary weeding or fertilizing, is a good idea. You can mulch with compost, or with commercial mulch. I am so glad we live in Greenfield where it is easy to get excellent compost and mulch from Martin’s Compost Farm. Our garden would not be thriving if it were not for Martin’s compost and compo-mulch.

Dee Nash suggests deadheading the spent blossoms, and cutting down the scapes (stems) when the plant is done blooming. I was given a small Corona Mini Snips this spring and I find it perfect for deadheading and any other fine snipping required in the garden.

Daylilies are best planted in spring or the fall. Autumn is a perfect time to divide your daylilies if the clump has increased well.

To divide your daylilies begin by cutting down the foliage to five or six inches. When you do this it is easy to see how daylilies grow in ‘fans.’ Dig up the whole clump, shake off as much soil as possible, and then gently wash off the rest of the soil. Instead of using a hose, you could simply soak them for an hour or so in a pail of water. You will be able to pull the clump apart once it is cleaned.

Dig a generous hole a foot deep and at least 18 inches wide. Mound a pile of soil in the middle and arrange the roots of two or three daylily fans over that mound, Gauge this so that the crown of your plant will be no more than an inch below the soil. Half bury your roots, water thoroughly; finish adding soil, until the roots are covered by no more than an inch of soil. Water again.

I have been out checking the daylilies I planted in 2015. In the fall I will divide some of the larger clumps. They have increased in size and I don’t want them to get overcrowded. I also want to make a fuller daylily border along the pebble path at the back of the garden.

Of course you will also want to buy daylilies from time to time. Today, July 14,  is the Daylily and Arts Festival at Silver Gardens at 23 Pickett Lane in Greenfield from 9 to 4 p.m. There will be hundreds of daylilies to choose from.

Olallie Lass daylily

Olallie Lass daylily

If a ride to Vermont appeals, you might stop at the Olallie Daylily Farm in South Newfane which is open Thursday through Sunday from 10-5 pm. I first went to Olallie with a friend over 30 years ago. She told me this place was unusual because it was so hard to get the gardener there to sell you anything, We met young Christopher Darrow who was taking over the farm that had begun with hybrids created by his grandfather Dr. George Darrow. I did find a daylily I liked, but Chris said, not for sale. I chose another and another, but no go. Finally I asked Chris what I could buy and he allowed the purchase of Olallie Lass which is a Darrow hybrid in a sunny yellow. It blooms still.  Nowadays, Chris will sell you any plant of your choice – and nowadays you can even buy blueberries at the farm.

I just learned that there is a wonderful daylily farm in Ashfield, not far from me. Stone Meadow Gardens grows 500 beautiful daylilies. You can visit the farm on open days in July, or you can order from their online catalog. I’m planning a trip there myself.

Between the Rows  July 14, 2018

Daylilies on Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – July 15, 2018

Bloom Day on the hellstrip

Bloom Day on the hellstrip

The hellstrip has been ready for Bloom Day for a while. Astilbe is ready to finish, but the Achillea, yarrow, coneflowers and daylilies have just begun their bloom days. Daylilies are the major stars right now.

double daylily

Double daylily

The week of days in the high 90s have not  bothered the daylilies one bit. Daylilies are used to heat, and dryness. I do have a list of my daylilies but I never seem to get the name and the flower attached to each other. Here are a few of my daylilies.

Lavender daylily

Lavender daylily

pale yellow day lily

Pale yellow daylily


Bee Balm

Bee Balm

In addition to all the daylilies, bee balm, a wonderful pollinator plant is in full bloom.

Button Bush

Button Bush

You wouldn’t think bees and other pollinators  would find the button bush of interest, but this is one of their favorite eating places.

To see what else is in bloom all across our great land visit Carol over at May Dreams Gardens.  Thank you, Carol!

Perennials Proliferate in Three Year Old Garden

yellow twig dogwood and other proliferating perennials

Proliferating perennials here include yellow twig dogwood, aronia, culvers root and bee balm

You never expect your perennials to proliferate when you are a young gardener You carefully plant your first perennial bee balm or Siberian iris or coral bells.  You set out your plants neatly and sigh with accomplishment and pleasure expecting that these perennials will look just as they do that day forever.

After caring for flower gardens for the past 40 years you would think I had outgrown this daydream. But, alas, as I evaluate my Greenfield garden, I realize unchecked proliferation has occurred and I have to deal with it. I should remember the old saying. The first year newly planted plants sleep. The second year they creep. The third year they leap! And the gardener might weep. (I added that last part myself.)

Since I intended that my new Greenfield garden should be a low maintenance garden it includes many shrubs. My definition of perennials is a plant that comes back next year and is bigger. I have many shrubs, and many perennial flowers intended to fill the spaces between the shrubs. All of these plants were chosen because I find them beautiful, but also because they are tolerant of wet soil. In addition to having heavy clay soil, a river runs beneath my garden. I have learned that there are many streams hiding under Greenfield streets and neighborhoods, seemingly filled in, but rivers and streams have their own energy and they do not completely disappear.

It is not too hard to find beautiful water-loving shrubs. I have planted three dogwood shrubs: red twig, yellow twig, and osier. They are all thriving, but the yellow twig is the most vexatious. It does not grow much more than six feet tall, but it grows out in every direction. I have been pruning it to shorten many of its branches, especially those near the ground where I have planted perennial flowers. Even so, right now the branches are tangling with six foot tall culver’s root, a native perennial that produces spikes of white flowers, as well as a six foot chokeberry that then leans into very tall bee balm. All these plants are thriving in this wet site.

I have decided that the chokeberry, which is barely visible at this point, will be removed entirely. Maybe I can donate it to the Energy Park garden. The culver’s root and bee balm will need to be dug up and reduced in size, probably in half. After visiting some wonderful gardens on the Hawley Tour yesterday I realized that another aspect of my problem is the similarity of foliage color and size. I need to consider how to have more variety in groupings. You can see that in late September I’ll be busy.

Happily, I have a Rhus aromatica, a wonderful low sumac which makes a great spready ground cover in front of the culver’s root and bee balm. On either side of the sumac I’ll have to consider perennials that might provide more color.

Japanese anemone, Calycanthus and rudbeckia

Proliferating perennials including Japanese anemone, Calycanthus and rudbeckia, daylilies in front border

Another overcrowded site includes three pink Japanese anemones which bloom long and joyfully in late summer into the fall, a young calycanthus shrub that produces amazing deep wine red blossoms in spring, and a border of rudbeckia given to me by a friend last year. All three are in the leaping stage.

What I know so far, is that the Calycanthus, also known as Carolina allspice or sweetshrub is a native plant, tolerant of clay soils will remain in  this spot. Now that it has bloomed, I am told it is a good time to prune to keep it a manageable size. It can grow to eight or nine feet with an equal spread. I am counting on its willingness to be controlled.

The Japanese anemones are favorites of mine and I find a big clump really beautiful, but they will have to be moved. But where? Hmmmmm.

The rudbeckias will mostly disappear. Last year they made a nice border and didn’t grow more than maybe 15 inches high. This year the border has doubled in width and height. I look at this arrangement from my kitchen window dozens of times a day. It irritates me to see such a crowded clump of plants. Again, foliage color and texture are similar. A problem all by itself.

I wish I could tell you that these are the only two areas that need redoing because of overcrowding, but there are others. Blue and white Siberian rises increase altogether too fast. They are beautiful and early bloomers, but two clumps kept under control may be my limit. Bee balms and Joe Pye weeds also need to be reduced. These are important plants for pollinators, but they need to be kept under control.

One section of the garden looks handsome as it has increased in a very wet spot. The golden leafed buttonbush now kisses the dark green foliage of the winterberry with its autumnal golden berries, and it snuggles up against the airy foliage of the dappled willow. All three are amenable to pruning.

Buttonbush, winterberry and dappled willow

Buttonbush, winterberry and dappled willow

Summer is generally not considered a time to work on garden planning, but it is in summer that many of the problems of our plant arrangements reveal themselves with painful clarity.

Between the Rows   July 7, 2018