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A Final Harvest

The sun was shining when I went out to the garden, but temperatures were in the teens. It was past time to pick the last Brussels sprouts. I like to serve these, freshly picked, at Thanksgiving, but this year we will have them tonight, and give thanks for as long a season as we have had.

Autumnal Mistake – The Burning Bush

We went away for the weekend to join a friend in her birthday celebration. Everywhere we went we saw brilliant burning bushes, Euonymus alatus. It is easy to understand the popularity of this shrub. It is dependable and long lived, tolerant of many soils and able to grow in sun or shade, as well as having desirable fall color. However, it is an invasive plant, native to Asia, able to crowd and shade out many other plants. Because birds feed on its fruits the shrub gets spread over a wide area. It should not be sold in a nursery and those who own it should consider replacing it with a non-invasive plant that will give you the same color.

Early this summer I planted a Sourwood tree, Oxydendrom. It is native to the eastern and southeatern US. I bought it at Nasami Farm in Whately, a nursery run by the New England Wildflower Society that specializes in native trees, shrubs and perennials. I chose it because of the promised fall color; and it has delivered, a glory early in the morning when the sun shines through the foliage.

I already have high bush blueberries growing in the garden and I think their autumnal shades are just as beautiful as the burning bush. And I have the benefit of all those luscious and nutritious berries. Blue berries are a wonderful shrub. Mine are over 20 years old and have had no problems with pests or disease. Though they require little care beyond pruning out deadwood they are still producing good crops. Because blueberries need cross pollination I have planted Atlantic, Blueray, Bluecrop, and Herbert. My season is long and prolific.

When adding new plants to the garden think about fall color, but think beyond the burning bush.

Bloom Day

My garden may be slowing down, but my schedule isn’t so I crept out with my camera a day early. Here’s the inventory, The autumn crocus (colchicums) are still giving pleasure.

The Fairy is indomitable. And there are a couple of blossoms here and there on the other roses. Double Knockout has buds, and the hips on Rosa Rubrifolia are beautiful.

The dahlias are still going strong. Funny Face is a knockout! I was able to make up a good bouquet for church, along with two other dahlias and some of our glorious autumn foliage.

The zinnias are looking pretty sad, but there are a few individual blossoms that still look fresh and perky. The photo doesn’t do them justice – too much breeze. I love the zinnias, so bright and cheerful. And easy.

This is my standard old annual blue salvia. I originally planted it in lieu of lavender in front of the Rose Shed Bed, but now I plant it because I like it so much. It is floriferous all summer and, obviously, well into the fall.
I can’t take credit for the brilliant hills that surround me, but they are the reason that it is easier to let the outdoor bloom season go.

Bloom Day

It’s Dahlia Season! So far, only three of my dahlias are blooming (I got 2 of the tubers in very very late) but they suggest to me that what I am developing is a garden that is full of bloom in June with our ‘famous’ Rose Walk and rose collection, the peony border and a few other spring perennials, and then not too much bloom until the fall. This is a concept I will try and build on. Patty Cake, above, is a very pretty pinky-apricot that has been producing flowers for the house for about three weeks.

Funny Face has gotten lots of comments for the brilliant color and splotching.

I really do love the pink-cream-yellow combination of Foxy Lady. Those colors are the reason why I love the Abraham Darby rose. Here Foxy Lady is growing slightly tangled up with a purple aster and a pink yarrow. All my dahlias are from Swan Island Dahlias.

Of course, it is aster season and who could live without the dependable and beautiful Alma Potschke? I think it will be time to divide her in the spring, but the big clump is so beautiful and artless.
This is the circle garden in the middle of the lawn, on an axis (kind of) with the wide path that separates the two Lawn Beds. It is there because there is a big boulder in the middle of the lawn that is a problem for lawn mowers. I keep adding compost every year so it does grow flowers without too much trouble. I’ve done different things, but I really like the circle of zinnias this year. I think I will make the circle a little bigger next year and do zinnias again. As I said, building on the idea of late summer/autumn bloom. The bird bath in the center was a gift, as was the metal sculpture of the praying mantis. I don’t have too many ornaments in the garden, but these were perfect additions to the zinnias.

I can’t really take credit for these plants, blooming when I put them in the new bed, but I’m happy to have them as place holders. The small plant between the yellow mum and purple aster is a caryopteris. I am visualizing the way it will look next year, more abundance and more late summer blue.

Other plants in bloom right now include an annual salvia, and a perennial salvia, chelone, autumn clematis, potentilla, cranesbill and even a few stray rose blossoms: Betty Prior, Double Knockout Red, and a red and a white Meideland landscape rose.

Squash blossoms still. Do they count? What about the the marigolds in the vegetable garden? And I mustn’t forget – a few sweet peas are still blooming on the vegetable garden fence.

Before the Storm

Planting a new bed is exciting, but also has elements of discomfort. Its kind of like letting your hair grow out – there is that wretched in between stage, neither long nor short. But there is always the vision of what it will be. After I had a strong young man remove the sod from the end of one of our Lawn Beds, the soil was revealed as dry and not promising. Still I finally had a space to put the sourwood tree I had gotten weeks ago. I also moved the small azaleaa that had never done much and was getting crowded where it was.

The second thing to do was to call Bear Path Farm and order 4 yards of stellar compost for this bed, and various other spots in the vegetable gardens. The peonies, too. After that came a happy visit with Lilian Jackman at Wilder Hill Farm; I bought a caryopteris, a northern sea oats, a fountain juniper and an artemesia lactiflora. I got all but the juniper in the ground where they could revel in the newly enriched soil. The juniper will be planted when I get more of the compost distributed. I felt like a good housekeeper speading out a clean tablecloth when I shoveled on and spread a final 4 inch layer of compost over the whole bed.

The plants are all healthy and they will grow and increase. They have room to do so. But the bed was so bare. There was nothing for it but to stop at the Shelburne Farm and Garden Center. Two New England asters, and one golden mum will at least give some color for us to enjoy when we sit at our dining table.

I planted and raced inside just as the Hanna rains arrived to water them well.

Black Beauty Lily

My Black Beauty lilies are planted in the herb bed along the piazza in front of the house. Here their tall turk’s cap blossoms are high in the sun, but their roots are well shaded by the tarragon, garlic chives and bee balm.

They have lived up to their publicity. They are trouble free vigorous growers and are considered one of the best lilies of the 20th century. I have had no trouble with disease or pests since I planted them four years ago. I love it when I find a glamorous and striking plant that requires so little care.

The soil in the herb bed is well drained. I dig in a little compost every spring, as I try to do everywhere in the garden. This comes under the heading of feeding the soil, not the plant. I use no other fertilizer.

Soon it will be lily planting time again; I’m considering what other lilies I might add. My regal lily did win first prize at the Heath Fair this year, and perfumed that corner of the Exhibit Hall.

The Sourwood Is Finally Planted

Earlier this summer I bought this sourwood tree at the New England Wildflower Society’s (NEWFS) nursery at Nasami Farm. It was an impulse purchase, but I was sure we would find a place for it. No brilliant ideas until a couple of weeks ago when we decided that our ornamental plum is diseased and needs to be taken out. The sourwood would be a perfect replacement, but it meant breaking sod and enlarging the Lawn Bed to give this spready native tree sufficient room.

No time for sod breaking, but yesterday I had access to a strong young man with a need for some extra cash. He broke the sod. We planted the tree in the shade of the plum which we’ll take out when we decide we can give up its shade this fall.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) will slowly grow no taller than 30 feet, according to NEWFS. It is hardy in zones 4 to 9 and is not much bothered by pest or disease. It does have tiny florets, similar to lily of the valley, in midsummer, and is noted for its showy autumn color. We have planted it in full sun (once the plum is gone) and will keep it well watered until fall. We were astounded to see how dry the soil was even though we have had a good amount of rain this summer. Not for the past couple of weeks though.

There is a substantial pile of sod to deal with. My young man is gone, but I can handle it once I decide how to compost it. In a pile of its own covered with black plastic? Or shall I use it in a lasagna bed to extend the vegetable garden enough to give myself adequate paths?
All the extra room in this new bed gives me space to divide some perennials and plant them here in a sort of holding bed while I decide what to do with them. Or do you think I am just postponing hard decisions?

Eating the Blues Away

One of the many joys of blueberries is that they don’t have to be picked the instant they are ripe. We’ve been picking since early this month, but there was something of a hiatus during the days of the Heath Fair, and immediately after. It takes us a while to recover from the Fair, but since we are regaining our energy my husband joined me at the blueberry patch yesterday where the berries hang thickly, all big and blue.

In about 20 minutes we picked over two quarts. Most of them went into the freezer, but some have been kept for blueberry muffins and other berry treats. This morning, on my way to the Heath Free Public Library where I use the high speed internet, I met my neighbor who was putting out quart baskets of peaches, fresh from his fairly new orchard. I can’t get over people who are able to grow peaches in our climate, but have no desire to emulate him at this point. I bought a quart and tonight we’ll have peach-blueberry crumble. Hardly any work, very nutritious, and totally delicious.

International Kitchen Garden Day

I’m celebrating International Kitchen Garden Day, August 24, by picking beans in my garden and then eating them. The celebration would be even more festive if I had a ripe tomato but up here in the higher elevations there is no such thing. Yet.

It is a sad comment on our times that there has to be an organization to encourage people to plant a little kitchen garden so they can enjoy many days of harvesting food, grown with their own labor and the blessings of sun and rain, and then entertaining their friends over a delicious meal.

Kitchen Garden Day was invented by the people at Kitchen Gardeners International who are connecting people who grow some of their own food all around the world. I know I have always felt connected to the people who have farmed and gardened through the ages, my Swedish and Italian forbears among them, but in spite of having those Swedish and Italian forbears it never occurred to me to identify myself with all those Swedes and Italians currently taking shovel and seeds out to the garden. And on a hot day like today I should certainly be able to imagine myself out under the Puglian sun.

Fortunately, the new technologies are helping us all to connect with like minded folk everywhere. Maybe they will even connect us with a presidential food garden. Wouldn’t that be something!

In the meantime, there are few delights to compare with picking succulent lettuces for my salads, unbruised raspberries, crisp haricot verts, fragrant dill, juicy tomatoes of every hue (eventually), petite courgettes and lovely blueberries. This is my daily kitchen garden celebration.

Do You See the Problem?

It’s all very well to say that you can grow tons of vegetables in a 10 x 10 foot garden. The question is will you be able to harvest those vegetables without wrecking half the garden in the process.
My husband will tell you I like to think big and that this is not always efficient. I agree on both counts so, forced by a wet garden site several years ago and a bad hip that would soon need a replacement, I moved the vegetable garden and made it tiny, about 12 by 15 feet. This year, new hip firmly in place we added a similarly sized extension for beans, squash of the summer and winter varieties. Not a lot of anything. This is the result. Just where do I put my feet?
Here is my warning and a suggestion. Plan 10 x 10 feet of planting beds. By all means. But then add on room for the paths. Allowing room to bring in a wheelbarrow is not a bad idea. Also, remember that as we age we might not be quite so flexible to pirouette and arabesque our way through verdant vines and lettuces. I have found that I need more room to bend and kneel than I used to – and not because I am fatter.
Next year – better paths!