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Only Two for Bloom Day


Early this morning, after yesterday’s rain, the sun began to break through the autumn mist. The grass is still lush, but all bloom has fled from the garden, except

for a single pot of verbena blooming in front of the house on this Bloom Day.  And indoors 

only the ever faithful abutilon is blooming.  Still, the Thanksgiving cactus is heavily budded and it may bloom right on schedule.

For many more Bloom Day treats visit Carol over at May Dreams Gardens and see how floriferous the blogging world is, even in November.

Seeing the Details

My weeping birch  11-2

My weeping birch 11-2

The week of rain and wind have blown all the trees nearly bare, but the rain was much needed, and mild weather in between allowed the garden clean up to continue. Now that so much is bare I can notice and admire details. The few leaves left on my weeping birch can be seen individually, the color and form better admired. I also have to wonder about the brain of this birch. Surely it has a brain, or why else would there hardly be any branches on the northwest side of the trunk. The tree was only about a foot tall when I planted it and I  would have thought that the branches would be more evenly distributed, but perhaps after a couple of years of feeling the those northwest winds, bitter in the winter, the tree decided it had to protect itself. It weeps to the south and east. Not what I expected.

Rosa glauca hips

Rosa glauca hips

The rose bushes are bare as well. Several have pretty hips. The attractiveness of the Rosa glauca hips which will turn nearly black were mentioned in the catlog from which I ordered this bush.

Mount Blanc Rose Hips

Mount Blanc Rose Hips

The rugosa Mount Blanc has large fat rose hips. Rugosa rose hips can be used for making a Vitamin C rich tea, or ground and cooked into a jam. A young neighbor and I once spent an afternoon stewing up a pot of rose hip jam.  Once was enough.

Hips of the Mystery Rose

Hips of the Mystery Rose

I thought this rose was Trigintepetala, but a perusal of an illustrated rose book this spring said it is not.  It is vigorous and has spread by runners on the rose walk. I am barely keeping it in control. 

Hips of the multiflora pasture rose

Hips of the multiflora pasture rose

The multiflora rose is the scourge of our fields.  The birds eat the hips and spread the bushes. Everywhere.

The Fairy 11-2

The Fairy 11-2

And look! The Fairy is still blooming. All alone.

Compost – Cold and Hot

Cold Compost

Cold Compost

Some people curse the falling leaves. Not me. Of course, since the wind blows all the leaves off my hill, the only labor I have is to collect the bags of leaves from industrious neighbors. I can never get enough.

I learned the technique of Cold Composting from the late Larry Leitner. He collected leaves and pressed them down into fence wire frames that he made in various sizes and shapes. He prepared these cold compost piles in the fall, and in the spring, he planted seedlings right in the pile.  The leaves would have broken down substantially, and sunk down. The piles would not be as fluffy as they were in the fall. He would make a small indentation in the pile, fill it with a quart or so of garden soil and put in the seedling. Large vegetable plants worked well, like the coles, or summer squash, but herb and flower seedlings did just as well.  Since there is nothing but leaves in this compost pile it does not heat up. There is nothing to harm tender plant roots. The only thing leaf compost beds need is sufficient watering during the growing season. They will dry out quickly.

Larry liked these beds because it used the leaves for free fertilizer, and because neighborhood dogs  didn’t damage his garden.  I have planted in these beds when I didn’t have good soil. The harvest was good, and I ultimately ended up with good soil where I used these beds.

These days I mostly make cold compost in a compost bin that I got a few years ago. As the leaves break down (and they break down faster than you might imagine) I can add more leaves to the bin. You can see I have several bags of leaves waiting in the wings.

Of course, at this point in the fall I have lots of garden clean up items to put in my regular compost pile. I do not manage it in a very scientific manner, but I do add occasional layers of chicken manure to the weeds, vines, dead annuals and regular kitchen waste. It will break down eventually, and I will always need compost, early or late.

Composting gives me a sense of thrift, making fertilizer out of scraps and free leaves, and of environmental responsibility, working with the natural cycle beginning with the seed which grows, dies, rots and makes the nourishment for the next crop.

My To-Do List

The Monday Record was intended to show what I had accomplished in the preceeding week, possibly including Monday itself. However, this week I spent a lot of time looking out the window at rain, and wind, and even snow muttering that if I were a Real Gardener I wouldn’t let poor weather stop me from attending to all the chores that needed attending to!

After five days of below freezing tempeatures, the low temperature today was 27 degrees. After the first two hard frost the dahlia foliage was killed, but I haven’t yet made it out to dig up the tubers and let them dry. Last year I packed my increased number of tubers away in barely damp peat moss and left them in the basement (a fairly constant 50 degrees. I used an unclosed plastic bag and a defunct picnic cooler as the storage unit.  I checked them a couple of times over the course of the winter and they remained firm. By the time I thought about potting them up to get a head start on the season, they were already sending out shoots. The weather this week is supposed to be fine, even warm. I hope the tubers will be sound when I dig them up. This year I am planning to mark the dug tubers with an ID, variety, or at least color name. That will make next year’s garden less haphazard.  Add ID tags to the to-do list.

The freezes that killed the dahlias made the gingko trees lose all their leaves at once. Add raking to the list.

I thought I had ripped out all the annuals, but here is whats left of the red zinnias, behind the puple asters. All dead. All needing to be ripped out or cut back for the winter.  Alma Potschke along with various other perennials, needs cutting back, too.

The peonies are dead, too. My to-do list for the past two weeks has noted the necessity to cut them back. This week for sure. My list is growing.

I haven’t been totally idle. I’ve been weeding and digging vegetable beds, adding compost and lime. I’m not done yet. Add that to the list.

The vegetable garden isn’t quite done. The deer snacked on the Brussels sprouts foliage, but most of the sprouts are intact. Some years we have picked the last sprouts for Thanksgiving dinner.

Even in the rain I could pick up bagged leaves from a neighbor for my compost piles. I put three of these huge bags in the black plastic composter, used earlier for a blighted potato planter, The other bags are on and around my regular compost piles. I have a separate compost pile for rough green struff, heavy stems, and questionalbe weed roots.  I do try not to put any weeds with dangerous roots, like quack grass or mint, or tansy, in the regular compost pile. I am looking forward to a spring with lots of available compost.

Anything else on the list?  Well, just a few things. Plant some bulbs, spread more wood chips, put away the hoses, empty, clean and put away flower pots?  What’s on your to-do list?

The Fairy 10-19-2009

The Fairy 10-19-2009

Bloom is gone, EXCEPT for The Fairy. Both bushes are still blooming. A testament to their hardiness, as well as their loveliness.


Apple Harvest

These apples may not be the most beautiful, but they are pretty sound inside which means I spent the afternoon peeling, chopping and boiling them down to make 5 quarts of apple butter, a delicacy I only discovered last year.

Two quarts have already been passed along to my oldest daughter and her family. They like apple butter on black pumpernickel bread, we like it on French toast.  There is hardly any way to use apples that is not delicious, in sauce, in stuffings, in chutney, in ‘mincemeat’, in oven pancakes, in pies, cakes and cookies. Oh, and you can eat them right out of hand.

Falling – Gently

After a chilly, even cold, week we are now enjoying a sunny warm spell.  Autumn begins tomorrow but the fall into the golden season is now a gentle one. I am looking forward to a mild week because there is a lot to do in the garden.

In spite of the chill, I did get to observe the eradication of the Mile-a-Minute vine in Greenfield, and visit some other gardens last week.

Mile-a-Minute vine

Mile-a-Minute vine

I cannot stress how dangerous this invasive weed is. Seeds that look like little blueberries are ripening right now. The little barbs are vicious! If you find this plant growing in your neighborhood email our state botanist at
Dahlia - giant

Dahlia - giant

While I was visiting the Purington family at Woodslawn Farm I got to admire  some maginificent flowers like this giant pink dahlia. It’s about 6 feet tall and the blossom is more than 8 inches across.



I know about balsam evergreens, of course, but this balsam flower was new to me. It was just one of the many flowers in a garden that allows Barbara Purington to keep the house filled with gorgeous bouquets.



There is always a lot to admire at Tony Palumbo and Mike Collins’ garden. The Greenfield Garden Club visited and were in high admiration mode. Tony showed us his long tall zinnia border which I loved, hibiscus, an exulting hydrangea and a secret garden with a splashing fountain.  Tony and Mike have planted  wonderful trees over the years. My favorite is the Katsura with its heart shaped leaves.



Of course, there was this stunning magnolia tree that looked so exotic and tropical, but Tony said it is a native variety he bought at Nasami farm.

After visiting gorgeous gardens it is time to come back to earth.

Lasagne garden

Lasagne garden

Under the warm Sunday sun it was a joy to work in the garden.  My husband mowed and cleared the tansy, goldenrod and mint filled area between two of my ‘new’ wood chip paths.  (You can see the wood chips on either side of the cardboard.)  I don’t know quite why we never got that area covered. Once Henry cleared the space I put down some unfinished compost and covered that with lots of cardboard, two and three layers deep.  Then more chips.  Last year, when I was making the Potager, I put compost on top of the cardboard, but right now I don’t have enough to cover such a large area. My plan for this year is to let chips cover the cardboard until it is spring planting time.  Then I will push aside the chips to make winter squash hills. I’ll break through the rotting cardboard, pile on some compost and rotted manure and plant the squash seed.  Over the summer the squash vines will cover the wood chips which will continue to cover this area. My theory is that this will be a weed control and in the spring of 2011 I”ll be ble to put in vegetables that need more attention.  Remember, worms love living under cardboard so they’ll be adding their castings to the soil this fall, and in the spring as soon as it begins to warm up. 



Before we leave the Potager I have to show off my Zinfandel sweet peas from Renee’s Garden. Because of the poor soil in this spot, and the bad spring weather they got off to a slow start. They also had to fight the tansy that kept coming through the cardboard. In spite of all my weeding they are still fighting the tansy, but they have won.  They are climbing on the metal crib ends I found at the Transfer Station, part of my White Things strategy for keeping away the deer, and my desire to do as much Reusing before I got to Recycling.

Hopeful Tendril

Grandpa Ott

Grandpa Ott

‘Life will not be denied!” is the cry that often goes up when I am in the garden, especially when I’m pulling weeds that have come up in the path through layers of cardboard and wood chips.  Sometimes the undenied life is beautiful like this tendril of a Grandpa Ott morning glory that just peeked through the slats in the Welcoming Platform in front of the house. A couple of years ago I planted a teepee of Grandpa Otts in a large pot on the Platform. Volunteers crawled through the herb bed last year, but I saw nothing this year – until now.

Dahlia Season – Blooming Friday

Katarina at Roses and Stuff invites us all to share what is in bloom on Blooming Fridays.  How many more will there be before the cold shuts down the outdoor show?

I’m  sure I have the name of this dahlia somewhere.  The cosmos are from Renee’s Garden seeds.

Foxy Lady has already made her way into bouquets.

Patty Cake has just begun blooming.

This nameless hydrangea has been blooming for over a month.

I love Red! Especially scarlet zinnias.

Crimson Stargazer lilies lean up against the burgundy cotinus. I never let the ‘smokes’ form.

The surprise rose bloom was this Purinton pink rambler. A sizeable root was given to me earlier this summer. It not only survived the transplanting, it is blooming!  I can’t wait until next summer.  Other roses are still blooming (in some measure) too: Double Red Knockouts; Meideland landscape roses in red, and white; Applejack; the new Pink Grootendorst; Corylus and Thomas Affleck.

Whither My Wisteria

My wisteria 2006

My wisteria 2006

My wisteria has gone wild. Tendrils are twisting everywhere. New shoots are coming up everywhere. The wisteria’s genetic vitality has never been so vigorous. I am blaming it all on the cool and rainy summer.

            My history with this wisteria is long and varied. 

            During our first year in China we saw many beautiful wisterias with their graceful pendant flowers blooming everywhere from the long gorgeous pergola in Purple Bamboo Park, to humble trellises in dusty alleys, to delicate watercolor scrolls. When we got home I insisted that we plant a wisteria.

            I ordered a wisteria sinensis in the spring of 1990. The particular variety name is long gone. We did not plant it immediately because although we had built a piazza or patio right in front of the house, the planned arbor was not yet in place.

            I planted the wisteria in a large flower pot and tended it lovingly but the arbor was not completed until August which meant the proper planting was long delayed..          

         Unfortunately I had gotten it into my head that wisteria did not need good rich soil, so I did nothing to improve the soil.  Over the years the wisteria survived, but it did not thrive. Finally my husband gave it an ultimatum. It had to reach the top of the arbor by 2000 – or it was going to be ripped out.  We not only wanted the romance of the flowers and a souvenir our Chinese sojourn, we wanted shade over the piazza and we were not getting it.

            So it was that I learned I should always check any ideas ‘that had gotten into my head.’  In fact wisteria likes good well drained soil.  I also learned that it is a heavy drinker.  Like roses, wisteria welcomes lots of water, especially in the spring.  I started adding heaps of compost every spring, and watering heavily.  By the year 2000 it just started spreading over the top of the arbor.

            Though it finally thrived and covered the arbor beautifully giving us cooling shade outside – and inside – the house, it did not bloom. This was a disappointment, but I had been questioned by so many people about their non-blooming wisterias, and had seen the non-blooming wisteria on the Bridge of Flowers that I had pretty much resigned myself to having a non-bloomer.

            I did what I could, root pruning, fertilizing and watering, but to no avail until 2006.

             It bloomed and bloomed and filled the air with subtle fragrance. I felt as though I were living in a Chinese watercolor. I’d wander outside several times a day just to sit under it, or walk away to admire at it.  I was in heaven.

            That winter was a killer, almost literally.

            When spring came a huge percentage of the wisteria was dead. We pruned out what we could but the recovery has been slow.  Even in 2008 there was little foliage over the top of the arbor. Our lovely shade was gone. I had enjoyed it outside, and even inside where the quality of light was softened.

            This year we have had odd sporadic bloom, but I am happy to report that more half the arbor is covered and the vigorous growth continues.

            Because I was not aware of many wisterias growing in our area, and so many people complained about it not blooming, I assumed it was almost too tender for our harsh climate. I was wrong.  Wisterias are strong growers.  In the south they can be dangerously vigorous.  Even in Heath I am constantly cutting back runners that are sent out from the roots. 

            Because our arbor is so high it is difficult to prune properly, but we do make an annual climb up to keep shoots from slipping underneath our metal roof. A proper annual pruning will encourage good bloom.

            Wisterias can also be trained as standards by supporting a main vine to the desired height and then pruning it to keep that height.  Side shoots also need to be pruned away.  The vine will eventually be self-supporting and should bloom heavily.

            Specialty nurseries like Bloom River  (, Greer Gardens ( , and Rare Find Nursery  (, offer a wide range of wisteria varieties, all of which need full sun and fertile, well drained soil.

            Wisteria macrostachya ‘Blue Moon’ is very hardy (to –40 degrees) and is said to bloom two or even three times a year. It is a vigorous grower.

            For those who might prefer something less vigorous there is W. frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ which grows much more slowly than Chinese and Japanese wisterias. It will bloom on new wood which means it will also bloom sporadically throughout the summer as well as in April and May. The controlled vigor makes it a good choice for smaller spaces.

            While my wisteria has occasionally fulfilled my fantasies, I am very aware that for some people a full belly is a fantasy.  I can help, and so can you. The Belly Bus food drive, sponsored by the Franklin County Hunger Task Force, through the joint efforts of the Franklin Area Survival Center, the Greenfield Salvation Army Chapel, the Franklin County Community Meals Program and Community Action’s Center for Self Reliance Food Pantry, will be collecting non-perishable food at the Greenfield town Common on Friday, August 14 from 3-5 pm.  The goal is to collect 6,000 pounds of food – and some cash too.  Bring your food contribution or a check ( or both) to the Common and help our neighbors who are struggling in these hard times.


August 8, 2009   Between the Rows



Late blight has infected my tomatoes.  Yesterday afternoon I went out to pick more beans and noticed that the single dead tomato branch was now several dead branches on all six of my tomato plants. It is difficult to see in  the photo against the straw mulch, but the reality was very clear.

If there was any doubt, one look at the tomatoes made it imperative to take instant and radical action. I pulled up all the plants and all loose tomatoes- which three days ago were big, beautiful and healthy looking – and put them into big black trash bags. Tomorrow they will go to the dump and thence the incinerator.

So far the potatoes in my ‘potato barrel’ seem OK, but I’m watching closely, as are the tomato plants in the Herb Bed in front of the house.

The question is how to make  sure spores are not in the soil to infect plants next year.  The first attack is to make sure that no part of the tomato plant or fallen tomatoes remain.  More research is needed.