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K is for Kalmia latifolia


Kalmia, mountain laurel

K is for Kalmia latifolia, the beautiful mountain laurel, is a hardy broadleaf evergreen that blooms in May. It should be deadheaded after it blooms. Kalmia prefers acid, moist but well drained humusy soil, and some shade. In nature it is an understory shrub in the woodlands. It tolerates deer and rabbits.

The native Kalmia used to bear white flowers tinged with pink, but now hybrids bring an array of colors to the garden from a pure  white ‘Pristine’ to a pink and white ‘Peppermint’ and a brilliant red ‘Olympic Fire.’ Wayside Gardens and Dayton Nursery each offer a selection of varieties.

The kalmias pictured here bloom on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. I bought a native kalmia for my new garden and managed to plant it in a raised bed that is sufficiently dry (I hope) to  thrive. Linnaeus named the genus Kalmia after Swedish botanist Peter Kalm (1716-1779) who explored plant life in parts of eastern North America from 1747 to 1751.

Kalmia latifolia

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pristine’

I am participating in the A to Z Challenge – posting every day in April. So far so good.

B is for Button Bush




B is for Buttonbush, more properly known as Cephalanthus occidentalis. I was thrilled to find this native woody shrub which will grow to about eight to ten feet because it is not only wet tolerant, it has been known to live on river banks where the water often rises enough so that the buttonbush is actually growing in the water. My garden is periodically inundated for days at a time after rain. However, I am trying to moderate the flooding. Still I think I can guarantee a wet spot for my buttonbush for years to come.

The shrub has attractive green foliage with red veining and the spherical white flowers make it very easy to identify if you find it growing along a river’s edge. Those flowers attract all manner of native bees, butterflies and other pollinators who use their pollen and nectar.

I found my buttonbush at Nasami Farm, the propagating arm of the New England Wildflower Society, conveniently nearby in Whately.

I am participating in the A to Z Challenge, one of nearly 1000 bloggers promising to post every single day of April – except Sundays.Check out some interesting new blogs.


I Went Shopping for Spice Bush for the Swallowtail Butterfly


Spice Bush, Lindera Benzoin

It’s spring and I went shopping  for Spice Bush. Yesterday, at the Hadley Garden Center I found a Spice Bush with bursting green buds. This Spice Bush, Lindera benzoin, is hardy, takes shade, and gets big, up to 12 feet tall and just as wide.  I will plant it next to the fence which a relatively dry spot, but spice bush can also tolerates some wet. One special reason for planting spice bush is that it attracts Spice Bush Swallowtail butterflies. Spice Bush Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on  host plants like the Spice Bush. This is so when the eggs hatch and the caterpillars are born their meals are waiting for them.  Any butterfly garden must include host plants that will feed the particular caterpillar as well as nectar plants.

A little botanical history. Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828) honored Johan Linder (1676-1724) by naming the Lindera genus in his honor. As you might imagine the genus Thunbergia which includes Thunbergia alata, the  black eyed susan vine. is name for CP Thunberg

Home Outside Plan for Pat and Henry

My husband Henry and I stood outside the back of our new Greenfield house. We each clutched a different custom garden design prepared for us by Home Outside  Julie Moir Messervy’s newest service to help homeowners create the garden they had always dreamed of. We looked at each other, we looked at the designs, and we looked at the blank green space that was our back yard.

Palette Plan #1

Palette Plan #1

Both Home Outside plans used the information I had sent them. We answered questions, filling out a form with the attributes (driveway, sheds, wet spot in lawn, etc.) of the Greenfield lot, and all that we wanted to have. We also explained what projects we had already begun, the planting of the hellstrip and the south shrub and rose border. I mentioned wanting a very small vegetable garden, a blueberry patch, a raspberry patch and an umbrella clothesline that would be at the back of the lot near the current sheds. This may have been a mistake. I should have let the designers have free rein.

Palette Plan #2

Palette Plan #2

How were we going to translate the graphics on the page into plants in the ground? Where should we start? It seemed impossible. I started to get the giggles. Henry sighed and said we had to take some measurements. The idea of measurements always strikes terror in my heart, but we had had some trouble understanding the scale given on the designs so there was no help for it.

We had already planted a clump of river birch and a weeping cherry, so we used them as markers, measuring the space from the side boundries of the lot to each of them, the distance between them, and the distances to the back of the lot. That was information. Now what?

While we had waited for the custom design to arrive in my email, my husband revealed that in fact, he had an idea or two. This was a surprise to me. He usually is content to be the muscle. He thought the clotheseline should be closer to the house and that we shouldn’t build our plan around sheds that would ‘soon’ be replaced with a better shed.

When the first Home Outside plan arrived I just loved it, even though some of it would have to be changed because of our own new plan about the clothesline. Then the second plan arrived and I loved it even more because it had more curving paths than the first and I really wanted curving paths.

We pulled our socks up and decided to begin with the curving paths that were common to both plans. One would amble along the north side of the lot, and the another on the south side. Henry waved his hands to indicate where he saw the paths going. I asked for clarifications. He waved his hands some more. I said I needed concrete markers to understand what he had in mind.

We got out stakes and string and marked the north border path, but not before a discussion on how wide a path should be, three feet or four? I decreed four feet because a path is for wandering with a companion.

Then we marked the southern curving path using the river birch which would be at the path entry, and stakes, but I kept getting confused, partly because of the big pile of compost that was impinging on this space. “The new river birch will be on the left side, right?” I asked. “No, it will be on the right side,” Henry replied. I still didn’t understand and it took more stakes and string before I was clear.

I finally walked the marked path. “Are we both on the same page?” Henry asked. “Yes!”

“How did that happen?” Henry laughed. He is very patient with me and my difficulty dealing with spatial relationships.

With the outer paths generally established, we could think about other paths through the yard which would be filled with large native shrubs that loved water. We knew when we bought the house that the backyard was very wet, but felt this was no great impediment.

I had already bought a selection of water loving native plants. They had been patiently waiting for planting day. We planted a dappled willow on one side of the north path where it was especially wet. Fifteen feet further west we planted a button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) which is so wet tolerant it can be planted in swamps and river margins. Both grow tall and wide. As we were running out of time that day, we set other shrubs in possible places to give us an idea of space required for each. We set the two potted potted winterberries on the opposite side of the willow path., as well as an elderberry.

In the potential bed headed by the weeping cherry we placed the potted clethera (sweet pepperbush), Aronia (chokeberry), and a yellow twig dogwood. The final pottedplant, a fothergilla like the one on the Bridge of Flowers, was placed just beyond the river birch.

Newly planted river birch and fothergilla (L) then weeping cherry , aronia, clethera (center0, then winterberries and dappled willow and button bush

Newly planted river birch and fothergilla (L) then weeping cherry , aronia, clethera (center0, then winterberries and dappled willow and button bush

Then we ran upstairs to look out the back bedroom window to see how it looked.  If we used our imaginations, we could almost see the beds forming, not exactly as pictured on the plan, but close enough for our satisfaction.

The next day we put all those shrubs in the ground, and heaved a sigh of happy achievement.

The next day came the torrential rains and we got a not very welcome surprise. Keep reading next week.

Between the Rows   July 18, 2015

If you want to play around with garden design for your own garden on the free Home Outside Palette app click here.


The Shrub and Rose Border Begins in Greenfield

Shrub border begins

Shrub and rose border  begins

I first became acquainted with Julie Moir Messervy through her book The Inward Garden: Creating a space of beauty and meaning. This beautiful book approaches garden design through seven archetypes, the cave the prairie, the mountain, the sea etc., and the way that a garden makes you feel. It is this attention to the mood I might want in my garden that interested me.

That attention to mood might have begun when as a graduate student she spent a year and a half in Japan and fell in love with Japanese gardens while working with a master. She later wrote Tenshin-in about the renovation of the Japanese garden at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts that she worked on. The quiet mood of a Japanese garden is one that has always appealed to me and I felt that Messervy and I were of one mind.

I met her in the flesh in 2009 when she came to South Deerfield to speak at the Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium. She had finished her book Home Outside: Creating the landscape you love and came to encourage us as we worked to create a domestic landscape that worked functionally, and that made us happy in that space. I say all this so you will understand how pleased I was when her design business asked me if I would test her new free app, Home Outside Palette which allows you to play with design elements in your yard/garden on your phone or tablet. For $14.95 extra you can fill the app with extra design capabilities. But beyond that they asked if I would use their custom design service Home Outside and write about the experience.

When this offer came we had just closed on our house in Greenfield. The house has a hellstrip and a tiny front yard, a sunny southern side yard and a mostly blank rectangular back yard that was all grass. I had been looking at that blank slate of a yard and saw infinite possibilities and so many decisions waiting to be made. Needless to say I accepted the offer.

Home Outside design service begins with a questionnaire about your style preferences – modern, curvy, symmetrical; what you like to do in your garden; description of the space; and finally a Wish List, as long as you want, of everything you wish to have in your garden. That questionnaire gets e-mailed along with a Google Map image of your house and lot.

While we waited for the design to arrive my husband and I got to work on the parts of the garden that were already planned. I have written about our hellstrip which is now almost completed. Time to set to work on the southern shrub and rose border.

cardboard - first layer for lasagna

cardboard – first layer for lasagna

The south border of our lot abuts the driveway of my new neighbor. Our plan was to create a shrub border that would eventually provide a prettier view than a strip of blacktop, as well as plenty of bloom. In front of large shrubs like hydrangea I wanted roses, with particular attention to modern, disease free roses. It was great fun to go off and buy enough shrubs and roses to fill a 40 foot long border. I have hydrangeas in Heath and I now have Limelight, Firelight, and Angel’s Blush in Greenfield. I bought Yankee Doodle and Beauty of Moscow lilacs, Korean spice viburnam and viburnam trilobum or highbush cranberry. The lilacs are about the smallest bushes of this array.

In front of the shrubs I planted roses: Zaide, Polar Express, Thomas Affleck, Folksinger, Lion Fairy Tale, The Fairy, Purple Rain and Knock Out Red. In between are perennials and groundcovers from Heath.

On June 3 we started to work on the shrub and rose border. Instead of trying to dig up all that sod we once again used the lasagna method of planting. My husband weed-whacked the grass down to soil level and then we planted the shrubs, digging large holes and amending the removed soil with a good helping of compost before returning it to the hole. After each shrub was in the ground we watered them well.

Compost and loam on cardboard

Compost and loam on cardboard

We usually planted at least two shrubs at a time, because the next step was covering the soil with a good layer of cardboard, making sure to overlap pieces so that no soil was showing. Then I watered the cardboard, getting it as soaked as possible. On top of the cardboard we spread about three inches of compost, and then topped that with another three inches of compost-enriched loam.

All the shrubs, including the roses are planted in the ground, but most of the perennials, groundcovers and annuals are planted in the compost and loam on top of the cardboard. Over time the cardboard will rot away, becoming compost itself, and all plants will be growing in improved soil. We have been fortunate to have had so much rain which meant that we didn’t have to do a lot of watering.

As of July 6th the shrub border is essentially finished although we haven’t yet created a real edge. Right now we just have raggedy bits of cardboard sticking out. An edge will come soon, along with a layer of mulch. All that bare soil cannot be left to welcome the weed seeds in the air.

First shrubs and roses in south border

First Shrubs and Roses in South border  July 6, 2015

Just as we were finishing we received our Home Outside plans for the backyard! The powers that be decided to send us two different custom plans. We could choose one or the other or combine them to our hearts content.

Next week I’ll reveal the landscape designs – and what we have made of them.

Between the Rows   July 11, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – July 2015

Angel Blush Hydrangea

Angel Blush Hydrangea

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

Button Bush


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

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

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

Purington rambler

Purington rambler

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

The Fairy rose

The Fairy rose

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

Achillea Terra Cotta

Achillea Terra Cotta and yellow loossestrife

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



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

Daylily bank

Daylily Bank

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



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

Mothlight hydrangea

Mothlight hydrangea

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

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

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2015

old apple tree in bloom

Old apple tree in bloom

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

Apple blossom closeup

Apple blossom closeup

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

Sargent Crab

Sargent crabapple

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

Sargent crab apple blossoms

Sargent crab blossoms

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

Cotoneaster in bloom

Cotoneaster in bloom

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

Ornamental plum blooming

Ornamental plum blooming

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



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

Epimedium sulphureum

Epimedium sulphureum

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

Daffodils, Waldsteinia and tiarlla

Daffodils, Waldsteinia and tiarella

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



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

Dandelions and violets

Dandelions and violets

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

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

Monks Garden at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Monks Garden

Monks Garden at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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

Monks Garden

Monks Garden Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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

Monks Garden

Monks Garden Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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

Monks Garden

Monks Garden Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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

Katsura at Monks Garden

Katsura at Monks Garden

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

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard

Orchids in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard

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

A beautiful celebration for a hot Mother’s Day.

First Dandelion – First Signs of Spring


First dandelion of 2015

The first dandelion seems  early this year, an indication that spring has arrived almost all in an instant after our very long and very frigid winter. The grass is suddenly green and the green veil across the trees at the edges of our field is becoming more opaque. The lilac leaf buds seem to double in size every day. Violets are blooming in the hots spots along the house foundation, too thick with weeds to make a good photo.

Van Sion Daffodils

Van Sion daffodils

Van Sion is an old variety of daffodil, multi-multipetaled and very early. It has been blooming for over a week, while the other daffs are just beginning to bloom.



When we moved to the end of the road in 1979 this forsythia never bloomed. Just as a bud or two began to open there would be a hard freeze that would blast all the buds. Forsythia is very hardy so the shrubs themselves were not really damaged, but never any bloom. Last year we were shocked by the brightness of the forsythia hedge for the first time.  This year is another year of bloom, just beginning. The cold lingered and lingered, but was not freezing and so now that we are having instant spring the bloom is beginning. How appropriate that so many spring bloomers, dandelion, daffodil and forsythia shine with a reflection of the warming spring sun.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday, click here.

Shades of White for Winter, Spring and Summer

View from the Bedroom Window

View from the Bedroom Window March 4, 2015

There are many shades of white in this world. Snow white is what I have been looking at for three frigid months now, but I dream of shades of white for spring and summer.



First come the snowdrops – as white as snow. A very welcome white.

Rhododendron 'Boule de neige'

Rhodendron ‘Boule de Neige’

Rhododendrons bloom towards the end of May, but ‘Boule de Neige’  (Snowball) has a memory of the white winter. Somehow this pristine white seems prettier than the snow.

Casa Blanca lilies

Casa Blanca lilies

High summer and the lilies are blooming. Blanca, blanca, blanca. White, white, white.

Mme Plantier rose

Mme Plantier rose

But perhaps my favorite whites are rose whites – Madame Plantier, rosa semi-plena, and Mount Blanc,

For more (almost) wordlessness this Wednesday, click here.