Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Plant Bulbs Now - Next Spring... WOW!


Plant Bulbs Now - Next Spring...WOW!

It's the second week of November and the garden is finally starting to simmer down. I have been gradually cutting back herbaceous perennials as they go dormant, resulting in lot of empty spaces beginning to reveal themselves in the gardens that surround my house and design studio. Those empty spots will remain empty until the perennials emerge and fill out next year. In many cases, that won't happen until late May or June or beyond. Enter the wonderful world of hardy bulbs.

It is a November ritual for me to plant spring and early summer blooming flower bulbs. I haven't missed a fall doing this since I began gardening. My love affair began with daffodils, perhaps because I am an April baby and they are the most prolific flower in bloom during the month of my birth. Plus, they are so easy, hardy, naturalize well, and smell so sweet. 

Seldom do we have daffodils left in November but this year, we reordered quite a few times and still 
have some nice varieties: 'Cassata' which is a pale yellow and white butterfly type, 'Passionale' (white with a salmon pink cup), good old 'Dutch Master' with giant yellow trumpet flowers, and a couple of cute dwarfs such as 'Rip van Winkle, the double star shaped "Sputnik" variety shown with a Hellebore blossom in the accompanying photograph.

Hyacinths are another wonderful April flower that are quite resistant to damage from deer and voles. They smell heavenly and are very perennial in my garden. In fact, I prefer my hyacinths to be 2 or 3 years old. By then, they send up clusters of much smaller flowers that have a delicacy that the first year blooms don't have. I pick them and put them in vases throughout the house. I remember on one of my April birthdays I had to teach a garden design class. One of the students, who had lived for many years in Hawaii, made me a lei made of fragrant hyacinths! 

Hyacinths and grape hyacinths bloom together in our rock garden by the road
Hyacinths come in so many startling colors, and they pair perfectly with daffodils. Can you see the lighter texture of the flower above? It is three years old in my garden and ideal for fresh spring arrangements. 

Grape hyacinths come in lots of colors. My absolute favorite is sky blue Muscari 'Valerie Finnis'. I also like the pale pink forms. These clump up well and reappear as a larger drift year after year. Yes, they do smell faintly of grapes and make wonderful bedside bouquets.
We also have lots of wonderful Allium bulbs still in stock. My favorite, still, after all these years of gardening is the Star of Persia, Allium cristophii shown above. It is a true star burst, yet it isn't very tall, only about 12" in height, but the flowers are big and round. Everyone asks about them and I like to pair them with perennials that bloom at the same time, in early June, such as Nepetas and cranesbill geraniums.
If you ask any of my staff, they will tell you that their favorite Allium is 'Purple Sensation'. This is a deep, rich, purple, medium sized globe flower. It has naturalized throughout our gardens, blooming with Baptisias and bearded irises, created a magical wonderland of color and form in late May.
Not all Alliums are big and round. Bright yellow Allium molly is a great edging bulb. It spreads nicely and will come up through all kinds of blooming, perennial ground covers. It is seen above with Allium cristophii in one of our gardens.
If you love the color blue, you will adore wood hyacinths. Often called English bluebells, these pretty masses of blue flower spikes flower in May and make long lasting cut flowers.
Another blue beauty is Anemone blanda 'Blue'. Called windflowers, there are anemones for spring and fall. The spring blooming bulbs are a snap to plant, they are tiny and easy to pop into the ground. This photo was taken on the south side of the shop where they have been spreading beautifully for the past few years. We have them in our gardens in blue and white and everyone wants to know about them. Unusual, diminutive, minor bulbs can steal the show from larger tulips and daffodils simply by their delicate nature.
Scilla siberica is Siberian squill. It has blue flowers that face downward.

Spring wouldn't be complete without the sight that takes your breath away: a lawn filled with naturalized Scilla, Chionodoxa, and crocuses. All three are small bulbs, super easy to slip into the earth. They move around a lot. I know of a street near Yale where the seeds of these beauties have been blown up the street. You can see the pattern of the wind. Now, yard after yard is filled with this gentle color. It only lasts a little while, but when it is happening, there is magic in the air.
Crocuses come in different sizes and bloom periods. Giant crocuses bloom in March; snow crocus or species crocus bloom in late February or very early March, right after the snowdrops. We have lots and LOTS of crocuses in stock, and I am very tempted to plant a crocus lawn along Rt. 22 this year.
Another diminutive bulbs that spreads well in lawns and naturalized beds is called Pushkinia. It is shown above. You thought Scilla was blue? Think again. Pushkinia is the softest, true blue imaginable. We have had them in the Natureworks gardens for over 20 years.
Talking about bulbs wouldn't be complete without mentioning tulips. Yes, we do have at least 4-5 varieties of large tulips still in stock and on sale including a couple of frilly parrots and some very early April bloomers. But what you really must discover are the species tulips. These are true perennials. We have had clumps of them reappear in our gardens for decades. Many folks ask about them because they don't really look like tulips as we think we know them. Because the bulbs are tiny, they are quick and easy to plant. The flowers open up like stars before your eyes. We still have yellow, pink, and red varieties in stock.
Bulbs, bulbs, and more bulbs to choose from. Don't let November pass you by without putting in some hardy bulbs. You will be SO GLAD YOU DID when spring of 2016 rolls around.

One can never have too many bulbs. Pick a nice fall day and get outside, soak up the precious sunlight, and dig in the earth one last time before you are forced to hibernate indoors for the winter. It is a very worthy endeavor.
'Taurus' is very late, a May bloomer and really fragrant.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's a Beautiful Week- KEEP ON PLANTING!

What a gift we have been given, 70 degree weather in the first week of November, 2015, warm soil, blue skies, an absolutely perfect reason to keep on planting. Here is a listing of some of the plants still on our benches as of this writing:
Ice plants are great for sunny, hot slopes.
We have lots of Delospermas (ice plants), sedums of all sorts, hens and chickens, and a nice range of sun tolerant, dry soil loving perennial succulents.
Sedum  'Angelina' is bright yellow and very showy
Sedum 'Angelina' is yellow all summer and turns a pretty shade of orange in the winter.
The new Sedums  'Cherry Tart' and 'Firecracker' are wonderful low mounds of colorful foliage with September flowers of deep rose. We even have the very unusual Sedum 'Thundercloud' with cut leaves and white flowers.
 I found many large pots of Persicarias in the back and dragged them out to the benches. They are labeled 'Orangefield' and 'Blackfield' and they bloom for 2-4 months if deadheaded.
Echinacea 'Cleopatra' is a really nice, bright yellow coneflower. There are a smattering of other varieties on the benches as well.
Veronicastrum crinita is a great, native ironweed that very tall and great for butterflies. It grows 4-6' tall.
We planted up a lot of fall containers with Oregano 'Kent Belle'. These plant loves full sun and good drainage and makes a really long lasting cut flower.
There are quite a few of the burgundy leaf elderberries (Sambucus 'Black Lace'). This is a pretty foliage plant that also has soft pink flowers followed by purple berries that the birds eat right up.
There is ONE buttonbush left. This is an August blooming native shrub that has rounded, white orbs of flowers followed by the coolest round seed pods. Got clay soil? Doesn't mind a bit.
We also have some 'Polaris' blueberry bushes. They are half-high varieties, a cross between our high bush types and the low bush blueberries with the super sweet fruit found growing all over Maine. Growing only 4' tall, they are perfect for the smaller yard and have really delicious fruit.
Physocarpus 'Lemon Candy' is an eyecatcher. The new growth is brilliant, and it is a very durable, easy care border plant that grows only 6' tall. I spotted one still kicking around in the nursery yard.
We have lots of Nepeta 'Purrsian Blue'. This is a very compact catmint with pretty blue flowers. Deer don't bother them and the tidy form makes it perfect for the front of the border.
There are even some unusual perennial Alliums still out on our benches. This is Allium senescens 'Glaucum', a great little dwarf that blooms in September.

Other plants include
Iris ensata 'Variegata'- 2
Iris ensata 'Lion King'-1
Hosta 'Risky Business-2
Hosta 'Patriot'-3
Hosta 'Guacamole-2
Boehmeria nopononivea 'Nichivin'-1
Lathyrus vernus-5
Rudbeckia 'Viette's Little Suzie'-3
Baptisia 'Blue Towers'-1
Kalimeris integrifolia 'Blue Star'-2
Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue'-2
Picea abies 'Acrocona'- 1
Astilbe 'Purpurkuze' (Purple Candles)-4
Gentiana semptifida 'Lagodechiana'-1

and more than I could write down or mention.

If you have your heart set on some of these plants, do call first to make sure they are still in stock.

Our half price sale on outdoor plants runs thru November 6th or until the plants are sold or planted in our gardens. Hurry in today! 


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I Did in My Garden Last Sunday
Sunday was a lovely day to work in the garden and BOY did my garden need a tuneup. I realized when I was done that for beginning gardeners, it could be very useful to understand what the late July garden needs and specifically how to deal with some of the challenges we all face at this point in the growing season.
Plants that have been languishing in my holding area for a while were begging to be planted!
I began my day with high hopes of getting some planting done. I had about a dozen perennials and annuals that I have been trying to get in the ground. I mixed up a "batch" of Quoddy lobster compost and Pro Gro. I filled a watering can with Organic Plant Magic solution. As I started getting ready to plant, I found myself weeding and deadheading instead. How did the garden get like this, seemingly overnight?
My 'Sentimental Blue' dwarf balloon flowers (Platycodon) had suddenly stopped flowering and formed hundreds of seed pods. Instead of getting around to individually deadheading the flowers, I simply cut them all off and cut the plants in half. I did this last year and they came back and bloomed again for me in the fall. At that point I let them go to seed; now I have lots and LOTS of dwarf blue balloon flowers sprinkled throughout the borders. I had to "de-gunk" my daylilies. Is that a real term? Well, no matter what you call it, I had to deadhead the stalks and then use my hand to comb out all of the yellow and brown leaves. Any daylilies that will repeat bloom (I have 'Fragrant Returns', 'Happy Returns', and a few others) got a couple of shovels full of my magic compost/fertilizer mixture spread around their base. I also noted that a couple of my older daylilies really needed dividing. I never got around to it last fall, I MUST do it this fall. 
My 'Highland White Dream' Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) was done. I cut the flowers back about halfway down the stems; I will go back in a couple of weeks, once the leaves turn yellow, and cut the flower stalks down to the ground. A new clump of fresh green basal foliage will then emerge, but this variety will not bloom again.  My later blooming 'Becky' Shasta daisies still had plenty of nice flowers and buds coming along so I just did a bit of sporadic deadheading on them. 
Beautyberry flowers are turning into berries this month and need to be deeply watered at this stage of their development.
As I started digging into the garden where I was going to add new perennials and annuals, I realized that the soil was bone dry below the surface. So every hole was filled with water and allowed to drain before I planted anything. That made me realize that my beautyberry bush (Callicarpa) was in bloom along the edge of my Norway spruce border. This is a really dry spot due to root competition. It is SO important to water beautyberries now as the flowers are becoming berries. No water, the berries don't form or fall off. I moved my hose to the base of this shrub and left it there to deep soak the area while I finished digging the holes.

I had originally set out to replant one of the containers on my deck but that would have to wait. I realized that my Baptisia was engulfing the Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and all of it's neighbors. I gave it a hand pruning to shape it and cut windows for the plants below. Then I began the crabgrass wars. How could all these baby crabgrass plants possibly have just appeared overnight in the cracks between my stepping stones and every tiny bit of bare earth? Believe me, there isn't much bare earth left in my gardens.  I knew if I got it out now, at an early age, it wouldn't go to seed and spread.
I love this funky Euphorbia. Look at those cool leaves. The center bract turns bright orange in the fall.

Finally, I got to that pot on my deck. I removed the Nemesias and pansies and added four new annuals- Angelonia, Fuchsia 'Gartenmeister', Euphorbia heterophylla 'Variegata' (shown above), and a purple impatiens. A wacky combination of plants with very different needs. I danced around 6 self-sown evening scented fragrant Nicotianas that had appeared from the year before.
This is what I ended up with- a GIANT wheelbarrow filled with weeds, spent blossoms, and garden clippings. Pretty good for a day's work. After hauling it to the compost pile, I decided to give myself a reward. 

I picked the very first ripe fig of the season and ate it in one big bite. Sorry Tony, dear husband of mine, but that one was for me! I then wandered through the gardens, sticking my nose in my fragrant lilies.
I love this new combination I dreamed up- Molinia caerulea 'Skyracer' surrounded by fragrant, evening scented Nicotiana. That's my deck chair behind the railing with a moonflower vine slowly making it's way up the post.

I spent the spring and early summer keeping the lily leaf beetles at bay on these old fashioned tiger lilies that I got from my dear friend Lucie Carlin's yard over 20 years ago. They are stunning this week and I am proud of myself!
My Allium senescens that I added to the main border last fall looks so pretty with all of the self-seeded cone flowers behind it and a smattering of black-eyed Susans.
I slowed down, watching the giant wasps on the mountain mint, observing bumble bees covered in pollen, nibbling on 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes and fresh raspberries, and soaking up the beauty of my patch of paradise.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Walking the Highline

Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver's root) with city buildings in the background
Walking the High Line
Last Sunday, Natureworks sponsored a bus trip to the High Line in New York City. Myself, my husband, many Natureworks employees, and lots of very enthusiastic customers braved the hottest day of the year to venture into the city and check out this very unusual garden. We were given a tour and I learned so much about how this garden came into existence.
The High Line was originally a raised railroad track that brought trains into the meatpacking district. As tractor trailer trucks eventually replaced railroad transportation, it was abandoned and became a dangerous eyesore. It remained abandoned for 25 years. It was scheduled to be torn down and was saved at the very last minute in 1999 by The Friends of the High Line. It is now owned by the City of New York and is a public park. But this is not just any park. It is actually a linear park, stretching nearly two miles. Five million people walk The High Line every year.
A field of Echinacea with a smokebush in the background.
On the day that we visited, even though it was extremely hot, the park was crowded with visitors. I heard so many different languages spoken all around me; this is a popular tourist attraction. Locals could be seen sitting in the shade of the birch groves, reading or sleeping. There was live music, art everywhere, food vendors selling everything from popsicles to gelato to espresso. There was an interactive gigantic Leggo display and an area where water flowed over the pavement and everyone took off their shoes and walked barefoot. 
Our tour guide told us that park was designed around the following concept:
Thimbleweed (Anemone cylindrica) happily seeded into the cracks in the stones.
The park was designed by the landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller, Scofidio, and Renfro. The planting design was done by Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands. I have been studying his work for a long time and have visited Millenium Park in Chicago a few times, another one of his United States designs. Words cannot express how exciting it was for a plant geek like me to finally walk The High Line.
Eryngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master) with Liatris
The impression that I walked away with was that the juxtaposition of wild looking, loose, prairie-type, native plants growing with abandon against the hard lines of the cityscape surrounding it made the whole thing simply magical. What a concept! A mass of Amsonia hubrechtii with Veronicastrum virginicum behind it framing the Empire State building in the distance. Billboards for expensive handbags with a sea of rattlesnake master Eryngium interwoven with Liatris at it's feet.
I was thrilled to realize that Natureworks already sells so many of the plants that we saw on Sunday. But, of course, there were many more that I didn't know and had to learn about. I took tons of pictures and when I returned home, studied the July blooming plant list given to us. I then went onto the High Line's VERY excellent website and downloaded the complete plant list they provided. Mysteries were solved and I was able to match photographs to plant names.
Aster umbellatus

Aruncus 'Horatio'

Salix eleagnos (rosemary leaf willow)

Ruellia humilis (wild petunia)

Magnolia macrophylla, the bigleaf magnolia, had us all talking. It was so tropical looking.
Silphium laciniatum

My FAVORITE! Silphium terebinthinaceum, also called prairie dock, with massive shiny leaves and tall spikes of yellow flowers.

Suzanne is shown here talking to Karen, both Natureworks employees who enjoyed the trip. Suzanne planned this entire trip and she did a great job.
Art was seen everywhere, but this was my favorite.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit The High Line. You will learn a lot and you will be impressed, as I was, at the creativity of man and the tenacity of plants in such an urban setting.