Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Daylily Border

Day 158
The Daily DuBrule

When I moved into my house I decided to eliminate the lawn on the steep slope by the road. It was the perfect place to dump the boring 'Stella D'Or' daylilies and plain old green and white hostas that the previous owner had planted everywhere. I rode the manual desodder down the hill and transplanted these run-of-the-mill perennials to this spot by the street.

My plan for my front yard has always been to keep it simple. I garden in public all day. When I am home, it is my only chance to garden alone. I didn't want to make the front gardens complicated or high maintenance. The second year I added some gorgeous red daylilies that I was given by a client (pictured above). I never did find out their name but they are early and start blooming just after the Stellas get going. It was then that I decided to have a theme for this hillside- bright oranges, golds, and reds. I was off and running.

Next to go in was 'Spider Miracle'. I started selling this variety because  'Lady Fingers', one of my favorite varieties, wasn't available. This is very similar. I wanted to be sure I could have stock of this neat plant for jobs in the future. It has thrived and I have huge clumps five years later.
'Bertie Ferris' was next. She is an adorable miniature repeat bloomer with really bright orange flowers. She just goes and goes and is way more interesting than good old 'Stella'. Love this plant!
I discovered two very deep golden yellow, large flowering daylilies that caught my eye. The first, which is pictured above, is 'Mary's Gold'. The color isn't right in this photo, is is a deeper golden orange. Really close is 'Spellbinder'. I need to add that one to the border so I can study the difference between them. I also planted 'Condilla', a Trophytaker brand variety with double golden orange flowers that blooms for more than 6 weeks. 
Near the mailbox is a huge stand of Hemerocallis fulva 'Kwanso Flore Pleno', the classic double orange roadside daylily that was given to me by my friend Ruth Kurle. This really goes the distance, flowering for many weeks longer than the single type. It is a real workhorse. Every time I see it, I think of Ruth. 

Throughout the past few years, I have continued to add to this crazy, mixed up collage of hot colors. I placed bundles of dried Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' seed heads between the daylilies and stomped on them late one fall. Now, they mingle with the daylilies and add a blast of color in August as the later blooming varieties are opening. 

Honestly, I never feed this garden, barely weed it except to pull out maple seedlings and bittersweet babies. Once every few years I toss some mulch at it. It is informal, easy, interesting, and I see people stopping to admire it when they walk by. Oh, and did I mention that it is filled with daffodils in the spring?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Fragrant Oasis

Day 157
The Daily DuBrule

Tonight I do a garden walk about fragrant plants. When I designed my own gardens, fragrance was at the top of my criteria list. It was especially critical that I surrounded my deck with plants that were fragrant, as that is where I spend time relaxing, especially in the evening.

I am very proud of my O.T. lilies. I love the variety 'Conc d'Or' which is an oriental/trumpet cross that soars to six feet and fills my entire yard with its powerful perfume. Four months of persistent lily leaf beetle control is worth it when they flower.

The tree I chose to shade my deck is Clethra barbinervis. This is a tree form of Clethra or summersweet. I first discovered this plant on a summer nursery tour. I look up at this 20 foot tall mature tree buzzing with bees, smelled the sweet fragrance, admired the cinnamon colored bark, and fell in love. The above picture was taken a few years ago when the tree was small. I had to use roll down shades to keep the sun off the picnic table in the afternoon. Now, this tree is large enough to shade the deck. When it bursts into bloom and the 'Conc d' Or' lilies flower at the same time, it is paradise out there.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Favorite Hydrangea

Day 156
The Daily DuBrule

I am in love with oakleaf hydrangeas. I love the fact that the flowers are fragrant. We're not talking the powerful perfume of a trumpet lily, the scent is light and soft and sweet. They are dramatic plants. Their branches reach out in all directions like a living piece of sculpture. Most hydrangeas in the winter look like dead sticks. Hydrangea quercifolia has an interesting exfoliating bark and makes the winter landscape much more interesting. 

The flowers are borne on the tips of last year's wood, so that makes pruning a challenge. After they finish blooming, and while the beautiful dried flowers are still on the plant, any pruning should be done to shape the plant. I am not suggesting you cut the entire plant back. Instead, select out some branches that have gotten too long and dangly and cut them back to where you want branching to occur. Perhaps remove some of the older branches that may be weak and break in snowstorm back to the base. This is pruning as plant sculpting and it takes patience and a good eye.

In the fall, the second show begins. The foliage turns a deep, rich, burgundy red. It is one of the highlights of the late season garden. Oakleaf hydrangeas are native plants, attract pollinators galore, and will grow in sun or shade. They are hardy in a cold winter and not susceptible to common garden pests or diseases. All in all, they are an excellent addition to the landscape. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Popper Party Time!

Day 155
The Daily DuBrule

The heat of last week moved a lot of plants into fast forward. One of the benefits of this weather is that my magic evening primroses have started to open. Affectionately called "poppers" by those of us who grow them, their official scientific name is Oenothera glazioviana 'Tina James Miracle'. Now that's a mouthful! They are true biennials. The first year they are rosettes of green leaves and look just like many other weeds in the garden. You have to know what they look like or you could easily pull them out. The second year they send up long flower spikes that can eventually reach 4-5' tall. Each day, buds start to swell. In the evening, at the magic hour when the sun has gone down and before it gets dark, the flowers open...right before your eyes they unfold... slowly... magically. A gentle "pop". People can't believe it! It takes patience (a good glass of wine helps) and faith. Impatient folks leave before the show begins. But once you've seen it, you treasure the experience. 

Poppers are pollinated by night flying moths. They emit a very sweet perfume. When you stick your nose deep in the flower, you always end up with a bit of pollen on the end of your nose. The time that they open changes as the time that the sun sets gets earlier and earlier. We've already passed the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, so it's all downhill from here. The timing of the opening of these flowers makes you realize how the length of the day keeps diminishing. In late summer, they get pretty ratty looking, with less and less flowers and more seed pods ripening. It's critical to let them form ripe seed, for without that seed, the cycle ends and you lose your poppers. The following spring, watch for the babies. Don't expect them to be where the poppers were last year. Mine have moved from their original location in my side yard by the deck, to the courtyard, and now to one of the raised beds in my vegetable garden. My husband has stopped wondering where I am after dinner and dishes. He knows I got out, graze on the sugar snaps, raspberries, and blueberries, and then wander over to these magical flowers and wait to watch them open. I am like a little kid, I never get sick of seeing it happens. It makes me smile.

I got my original plants from my employee Lisa who got them from David Brown of Old Saybrook who owns the Hay House Farm. I have shared my plants with friends and propagated them for the nursery. Because we are never open as the sun is setting and the poppers are popping, it doesn't really do any good to plant them at Natureworks. I get to enjoy them here at home, night after night, as the summer unfolds. 

Chairs set up to watch the show
Tina James, by the way, was an author who knew about these plants and had parties with her friends to celebrate watching them open. I've done that myself. Once you have seen this miracle, you want to share the experience.  

A couple of years ago I made a video showing this happening. It is really silly, I ramble on and on, but it sure is relaxing. Birds chirping, my water garden in the background, four and a half minutes devoted to watching the magic evening primroses open. Check it out. Enjoy.  Watch poppers:the video

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Sparkling Evening

Day 154
The Daily DuBrule

I used to live in a wonderful small community by the shoreline. It was surrounded by marshes and contained patches of inland wetlands. There was also plenty of woodland areas filled with wildflowers and, of course, beaches and water views. 

Every 4th of July, folks would stage a magnificent private fireworks display on a rocky outcropping that jutted far out into the water. Everyone on the island knew this was going to happen. People would have cookouts and party all day in anticipation of this event. At dark, we would all proceed to the beach and enjoy the show. 

Walking home after the fireworks one year, I stopped at the marsh and simply stood there for five minutes watching a quiet display of sparkling lights- lightning bugs! It was the neatest phenomenon, watching this long stretch of marsh twinkling as the last of the smaller fireworks popped all around. I will never forget that feeling.

Last night, after returning home from a nice dinner party, the air was just so deliciously cool after the intense heat and humidity I endured all week that I just couldn't help myself. I stretched out on the lounge chair on the deck to breath in this air and think about the week that just past. It was then that I saw the first lightning bugs of the season. As they sparkled and twinkled around my garden, I settled in for a while to deeply relax and untwist my muscles and thank goodness I live in such a special patch of paradise.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Those Sneaky Hollyhocks

Day 153
The Daily DuBrule

Many years ago I banished hollyhocks from my garden. It was a heartbreaking decision because I adore these old fashioned flowers. They are dramatic AND they attract hummingbirds.

I remember the exact moment when I decided that enough was enough. It was an extremely mild winter, 70 degrees in January. I was out poking around in the yard and I found hollyhock leaves unfolding up against the south side of my house. They had rust on them! Are you kidding me? Rust in January? I grabbed a garbage bag, dug out the plant, threw it away, and washed my tools off with rubbing alcohol. After that, any babies that appeared were ripped out.

That plan worked well for the past few years. This year, however, a couple of seedlings appeared and, for some reason, I left them. One was in the original spot on the south side of the house. The other was in a raised bed in my vegetable garden. They are both now in bloom and remarkably rust free. Well, I see a tiny bit starting on the lower leaves, but they are nothing like the fungus covered plants of the past. I owe it to my extremely rich soil. This is an unscientific theory, but when you think that holllyhocks used to be a staple next to outhouses and barns where the soil is very rich... well, I just might be onto something. 

The red one is right by my back deck and my resident hummingbird is really happy with it. I can see it out the window as I type this. The pink one is over four feet across and takes up 1/3 of one entire raised bed. The peas are squeezed in next to it. It is the biggest, healthiest hollyhock I have ever seen. I will probably remove the lower leaves and discard them and when the flowers finish, I will cut all the stalks down except one and let it go to seed. Then I will take the ripe seed and move it somewhere else in the yard. I guess the hollyhocks have snuck back in and won a new place in my garden, and in my heart. I am just a sucker for these classic cottage garden flowers.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Day 152
The Daily DuBrule

Boy, it's been really hot. The sun is intense and the plants are wilting during the day. When a plant in my garden wilts in the afternoon sun, I don't assume it needs to be watered. I assume it's hot, just like me. I monitor all newly planted annuals, vegetables, perennials, shrubs, and trees right now. If a plant has been in the ground for years and it is mulched, I don't worry about it until we have gone many weeks without rain. The reason I mention this is that last night I spoke to a woman who waters her entire garden every day. She really didn't believe me when I told her that wasn't necessary. I showed her how damp the soil was under a thick layer of mulch. I explained about watering less often and deeply to encourage the roots to search deep in the soil for water. I told her that daily shallow watering and no mulch causes the roots to come to the surface and the heat dries them out. She was making so much extra work for herself and not even growing sustainable, strong root systems.

Container gardens are another story. On hot days, they dry right out. They need to be watered every day in a heat wave. One of my tricks on a hot day is to water a container plant and then sit it in a saucer of water. The water wicks upwards during the heat of the day and I don't come home to wilted plants. 


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Laughing at the Heat

Day 151
The Daily DuBrule

In the early days of my business I used to hate summer because I knew so few plants that seemed to truly love the heat. When I discovered tender perennial Salvias, I realized that this was a group of plants that get better and better as it gets hotter and hotter. Now they form the backbone of many of my annual plantings.

This year I planted Salvia 'Diablo' in a pot next to my deck. It is just about the reddest Salvia I have ever seen. The hummingbirds can't leave it alone and as the temperatures rise out of site, it is coming into its own. It only grows 15-20" tall and the flowers look like tiny tubes of lipstick. The secret to these plants is to plant them in full blazing sun, deadhead them often, feed them every few weeks ( I sprinkle Pro Gro in the pots to replace the nitrogen leached out by daily watering), sit back and enjoy.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peas with 'Gusto'

Day 150
The Daily DuBrule

I have just discovered one of the prettiest combinations in my blended garden of flowers and edibles. Back on Earth Day weekend, my friend Karen Bussolini came to speak at Natureworks. It was a hot, dry period of the spring and everyone was having trouble getting their seeds to sprout and thrive in the 90 degree heat. Karen brought me some pre-sprouted yellow podded peas. She placed the seeds in moist paper towels and started the sprouting process ahead of time. It made for very succesful, quick germination and the peas thrived. She too is interested in blended gardens and thought they would be pretty. Well, she was so right.

There are forces at work in my gardens that are greater than me. I just happened to plant these special peas on a trellis in the last raised bed in my garden, at the bottom of the hill. Just beyond is a clump of Japanese irises. A few weeks ago I noticed the peas were flowering. Instead of the white flowers on my traditional sugar snap peas, these flowers were lavender purple. I couldn't believe it. I have been photographing them ever since. Last week the pods started to form. I forgot to ask Karen if these were snap peas or English peas. No matter. I haven't let a single one get big enough to shell. I have been eating them pod and all.

The best part of this combination is that the Iris ensata 'Gusto' which is next to these peas makes a perfect combination with the purple pea flowers. This morning in the early haze of the first day of summer, I ran out with my camera to try and capture the beauty that I am enjoying. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Four Firsts in One Day

My bok choy amongst the arugula
Day 149
The Daily DuBrule

Yesterday morning, I awoke the news that one of my cousins had passed. My sister was visiting, and we discussed the fact that this was the first of our first cousins to go. Later, I returned home from my final visit to clean out my father's house which is being sold on Thursday. I was a bit sad, knowing I had turned in my key and after 48 years, I would never be walking into that house again. It is the end of an era in my life. After I got dinner started, I sat outside in the sun to watch the Allium cernum nod in the breeze and check out all the bees that were pollinating it. That is when I had my first close encounter of the hummingbird kind of the year. I have seen hummingbirds at Natureworks already and I thought I might have seen one at home out of the corner of my eye, but this was the real deal. This ruby throated beauty came within inches of where I was sitting, going directly for the Stachys albotomentosa that I had specifically planted to attract hummingbirds. How cool! 
Annual Stachys albotomentosa
All of my containers are planted to attract hummingbirds. They contain fuchsias and 'Bonfire' begonias, Verbenas, Agastache, Salvias,million bells... you name it, if it attract hummingbirds and I can fit it in, I plant it. 
The second first of my day was that I harvested bok choy. I have never grown this before, but when Renees seeds let me choose 12 packets to grow and write about, I decided to give it a try. Well let me tell you, I made an out-of-this-world Chinese stir fry with this crunchy, crispy, delicious bok choy. I am hooked.

Later in the evening, I went back out to the garden to pick blueberries. There, glowing in the setting sun, was my first raspberry of the season! It was a yellow one. I popped it in my mouth and smiled, looking at the raspberry patch which is filling out with swelling fruit quite nicely this week. 

All in all, yesterday my garden helped me deal with some tough emotions by feeding both my body and my soul.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Shade Garden Surprise

Day 148
The Daily DuBrule

I am a plant peddler. If I ever really counted the number of different plants that Natureworks sells in a year, it would boggle my mind. I am constantly seeking out new and unusual varieties. I thrive on the diversity, love the thrill of the hunt. That's why, when I go to an event that has a plant auction, I can't resist. It doesn't matter how many gazillions of plants I have back at the nursery to sell before the snow flies, if I see a plant that I can't live without, I join the fray and start to bid.

Arisaema fargesii falls into that category of bidding with wild abandon. I saw it on the table at a CNLA Summer Meeting two years ago. Hmm... Maybe no one knows what it is. BUT, if I put in a bid, everyone knows I love unusual plants and that will be a tip off. What to do, what to do. There was nothing I could do but place a bid. I kept checking back during the day and was surprised to see there was not a lot of competition for this plant. It wasn't in bloom, and there were much flashier specimens everywhere. I did a final pass right before the bidding was to end and realized I WON! 

Lucky for me, I had the perfect spot for this rare Chinese form of jack-in-the-pulpit. They love shady, cool spots that are high in organic matter. That describes the little shade bed right by my back door under my giant wisteria vine to a "T". I planted it and forgot about it. I mean, I really did forget it was there until the next year in late June when, in a matter a just a few days, this giant pointed bud erupted from the ground and opened to the amazing flower you see in the picture above. I took that picture today, as it has come back nicely to put on a show for me again this year. The solitary leaf that grows with it is like a gigantic umbrella. What an awesome, low maintenance plant, jumping it to add drama after the hellebores and blue double primroses and other spring gems are finished. 

I can't wait for my next opportunity to bid on a rare plant. "There goes Nance with the Plants" is my motto, and one can never have too many!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mixed Up Gardens

Day 147
The Daily DuBrule

It's Father's Day, and the balloon flowers are in bloom in my garden. Wait a minute, that can't be right! It's only the middle of June, what are they doing flowering?
Don't worry, they are in good company. The orange butterfly weed is in flower too. Both of these perennials are July bloomers. This week I had many serious horticulturists hang out with me at Natureworks and this phenomenon was the talk of the town. A common question escaped everyone's lips who really know the traditional bloom cycle of the garden: "What will be in flower in the fall? Will there be anything left?". I quipped that may snowdrops and Hellebores would be the new October bloomers. We all just groaned.

Meanwhile, on the other side of my garden, I have a couple of gorgeous lupines just starting to open, about a month late. They marry perfectly with the last of the purplish red peonies. For someone who takes succession of bloom in CT very seriously, I am confused. How can a designer plan a border with this kind of craziness? I wouldn't even dare to try and rewrite my book. Things are changing, ever changing, in these times we are living in. We probably just have to enjoy the wacky combinations we inadvertently create and go with the flow and enjoy them. 

This daylily is blooming next to my lupines

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Wagonmaster

Day 146
The Daily DuBrule

When I first started Natureworks almost 30 years ago, my father was a great supporter of my endeavor. From making benches to loaning me money, he and my mother were 100% behind me in my effort to own a business. One of the neatest things that he did was make wagons for the retail store.

Dad would comb the neighborhood for discarded wagons, baby carriages, fertilizer spreaders, basically anything that had wheels, axles, and handles. He set up a wagon workshop in the back yard next to his shed. He made a huge wooden box where he stored all the parts. He would take the broken wagons apart and rebuild them. Eventually he learned it was best to drill holes in the bottom for drainage. He started naming them. "Elderbud" which is DuBrule spelled backwards. "Y-Not" which is Tony spelled backwards (when I got engaged). We came up with names for the staff like "All for Amy" and "Colleen's Carry All". There was "Phil-er-up". It made my garden center just that much more personal and everyone loved them. When they would break or get hit by a car in the parking lot, I would stuff them into my station wagon and bring them back to the Wagonmaster for fixing. The second I pulled into the driveway, he was by the car, taking out the wagons and dragging over to his workshop. He LOVED doing it.

Eventually, my dad got too old and too sick to fix or make wagons. When the day came when I finally had to BUY wagons for the garden center, it broke my heart. The were charmless and utilitarian.
 The old wagons piled up in the back and I finally decided to do something with them. Amber made a miniature fairy garden out of one which I found to be simply delightful. I decided to do a wagon train along our north property line. I also included some old wheelbarrow. Yup, he collected them too, adding new handles or whatever. It gave me great joy to plant these up and make a little display to honor my Wagonmaster the weekend of Father's Day. Man, I miss him so much. This is the first Father's Day without him. I bet he's smiling down at the planted wagons though, thinking how great it is that I didn't discard them. A Yankee to the core, that was my Daddy-o.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Beautiful Chaos

Day 145
The Daily DuBrule

I spent the winter teaching about blended gardens. This means that you weave edibles and ornamentals in together. Well, I think my garden has become the poster child for this style, but probably in a way that would drive most people crazy. In reality, I have had the busiest spring, and it looks like I am going to have the busiest summer ever at Natureworks. I continue to plant and harvest food every week from my 14 raised beds, but it doesn't look AT ALL like my vegetable gardens of past years. A beautiful chaos reigns and it takes a bit of getting used to. I think I like it! It's like an edible cottage garden out there...

Mustard 'Ruby Streak's has gone to seed and flower and hangs over the radishes which grow amongst the 'Sea of Red' lettuce. In the background, half of a bed is filled with feverfew. I need to get it out and plant something edible in there but for now, I haven't the time so it's pretty and I leave it. 
Calendulas are absolutely everywhere, and so are breadseed poppies. I sowed 'Heirloom Pepperbox' seeds in late winter on a whim and they came up everwhere. The calendulas are throughout the bed where I planted peppers and eggplants.  

The blueberry patch has peppermint as a ground cover. It is next to old fashioned orange daylilies and circle flower (Lysimachia punctata). They both try and creep into blueberryland, but I maintain a boundary between them. Yet, it's sure a pretty picture right now as I am beginning to eat ripe blueberries and hang out there every evening for a while stuffing my face. 

A giant hollyhock has emerged in one bed. I banished hollyhocks a few years ago because I couldn't stand the rust. This one is so healthy and happy, I can't help thinking it loves the gorgeous, carefully amended soil of my veggie beds. I am allowing it to remain, even though it literally takes up 1/3 of this 12' long bed. Peas are growing on the trellis behind it and bronze fennel continues to try and grow everywhere. I also pull a lot of it out but it is just so good for the beneficials.

All these ornamental flowers are stopping my husband and I from being overwhelmed by produce. I literally give away food to my staff and anyone who will take it. Right now its greens. Last week it was garlic scapes. Tony won't let me share the radishes, they are HIS to devour. But I have to say this is a pretty good way to grow food if you are really busy and love beauty.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Belles

Day 144
The Daily DuBrule

Hydrangeas are a beloved plant yet they remain a mystery to so many people because very often they don't flower. When I teach hydrangea pruning I usually pack the house and many of the students come back and take the workshop over and over. All this old wood-new wood talk confuses them. Enter our fabulous native Hydrangea arborescens. No worries about pruning there. You could do what my late father used to do which is mow it to the ground every fall. It would grow back and flower every single year. That's because this species of hydrangea blooms on current year's wood. It is also hardy to zone 4 so there are no worries about hard winters or early spring frosts. Oh, and did I mention that this species will grow in lots of shade as well as full sun? How versatile of her.

For decades, there were two choices: the straight species, with nice, small white flowers that didn't fall over in the rain and 'Annabelle', with gigantic white flowers that turned heads but were a bit floppy when fully in bloom. This plant only came in white, with the flowers fading to a limey green in late summer. 

Enter 'Incrediball', bred to have the same gigantic flowers on stronger stems. Alright, someone finally figured out the flaw that made so many people annoyed at this great shrub. But that didn't solve the problem of color. Finally, a couple of years ago, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Spirit' joined the party. This was the very first PINK form of this very hardy and easy care hydrangea.  Anyway, we were all really excited. BUT, when 'Invincibelle Spirit' finally arrived, I was less than enthusiastic about her performance and vigor. I took one home, the last, lonely, sad little plant left in the nursery in late fall, and planted it next to my smokebush. It took two years for this belle to come into her own. Now she is a true beauty.
'Invincibelle Spirit'

I was at a winter conference listening to my woody plant guru Michael Dirr shortly afterwards. He said "forget 'Invincibelle Spirit', I have bred 'Bella Anna' with is a far superior pink plant." I was excited. Well, my experience has been that yes, 'Bella Anna' is terrific, but it also needs a couple of years in the garden to settle in and come into her own. No matter, I love them all. They make great cut flowers, they are just beginning to bloom this week, and will add color to my borders for a good portion of the summer. This is one hardy hydrangea that is really worth planting, no matter what conditions you have in your garden.

'Invincibelle Spirit' with my purple smokebush


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Glowing Golden Goodness

Day 143
The Daily DuBrule

One of the benefits of owning a retail garden center and being a garden writer is that you occasionally get offered free stuff. I happened to see a form this winter from Renee's Seeds offering free seed packets to trial. I decided to get one packet each of assorted edibles that I normally wouldn't plant and write about them. 'Pot of Gold' Swiss chard has turned to be one of my new favorites!

I first decided to try this because I love to blend pretty edibles into my flower gardens. I figured this would be an easy one. I don't eat a lot of chard because my husband prefers bitter greens and I only cook for the two of us. Now that I have a huge patch of gorgeous 'Pot of Gold', I am cooking with it all the time. I sneak it into rice, pasta, and chicken dishes. I cook it with garlic scapes. YUM! It is tender and delicious. I dragged out a book I bought back in the 70's when I had my very first huge vegetable garden: Too Many Tomatoes by Lois Burrows and Laura Myers. It's a miracle that I have managed to keep this book through over 40 years of moving, even during my time at the cottage when I had no sun and very little soil and couldn't grow much food. But there it sits on my bookshelf and it is divided up into chapters based on what vegetable is overflowing your harvest basket at the moment. I remember now that I used to cook brown rice with all sorts of spices, wilt the chard, roll the rice mixture in it, then place it in a pan with tomato sauce and cheese and bake it. 

Back to my original premise of growing 'Pot of Gold' chard as edible landscaping plant. I imagine it in my flower gardens, with purple poppies coming up through it. I can see it behind my new yellow Leucanthemum 'Banana Cream' (Shasta daisy). It has a bold leaf, so I need to pair it with plants that have a finer texture. It would even work in containers with my 'Mrs. Cox' geraniums. Fun, fun, fun times in the garden this year! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Day 142
The Daily DuBrule

I remember a long time ago I planted a golden chain tree in a client's yard. This man's delight in his evolving garden was a joy to behold. He called me one May day and told my "my golden chain tree is chaining!". I cracked up and never forgot that comment. Of course, it caused me to extrapolate that concept to other plants. The natural segue was "my smoke bush is smokin'!" So on Sunday, when I walked out into my garden, that is exactly what I said to myself. 

I have two smokebushes (Cotinus coggygria). The one pictured above is 'Young Lady', so named because it blooms at an early age. Boy does it. I've only had it in the garden for a few years and it has bloomed every June since I planted it. Right now I have milkweed in flower, weaving its way into the puffy blossoms. I leave as much milkweed as I can for the monarch butterflies and I also love their funny round flowers that smell so wonderful. 
Last year, in July, when my father died, I picked a huge bouquet of smokebush flowers and put them in a vase in my living room to decorate the house for company. I neglected to refresh the water and they dried beautifully, remaining there well into the fall.

The other smokebush that I have is Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', or the purple leaf smoke bush. This lives in my courtyard. It is a subtle bow to the wood fired pizza oven that shares that space. Anyway, this plant is also in flower, but the flowers are light purple and not as puffy and showy. I like them anyway. The flowers appear on the tips of last year's wood, and this plant was bent to the ground in the October snowstorm. Rather than pruning it back, I quickly brushed off the heavy snow and encouraged it to stand back up on its own two feet. It did, in a quirky kind of way, looking a bit open and gangly all season. But, if I wanted flowers, I had to leave it alone. In August, once the flowers have finished, I will give it a really good, proper shaping. The bottom of this plant has already been pruned as it leaned over the labyrinth and I couldn't walk it without going off track. The result of this fall pruning is that the lower half of the plant is fat, full, and gorgeous- but no flowers. That's okay with me. In England, this plant is grown in the background of the borders and pruned constantly to encourage the best maroon foliage. No one seems to worry that it doesn't flower. I also like to cut the branches of my purple leaf smoke bush in the fall for arrangements. As the weather gets cold, the veins start to turn bright pink. The round leaves hold up really well as cut foliage. 

Monday, June 11, 2012



Day 141
The Daily DuBrule

What a miracle. I haven't really planted calendulas in my garden in a few years yet they continue to self sow. I LOVE plants that do that! I am getting pretty good at recognizing them as tiny seedlings and moving them around as needed. Right now, most of my raised beds have calendulas in them somewhere. I just love this common annual. It's actually a really useful herb. I recently developed a heat rash on a crazy hot day in the attic office of Natureworks. When I got home I grabbed my calendula cream and it solved the problem in a few days. It is good for any skin irritations. It is also a culinary herb, often called "pot marigold" as it can be used as a saffron substitute in rice and stews to color to dish orange. 

Just look at the variety of flower forms that I photographed this morning in my garden. There are orange ones, yellow ones, singles and doubles. Some have deep red centers, some have bright yellow centers.The petals of the flowers are edible and delicious sprinkled in salads. The flower petals are also a source of yellow dye. They bloom all summer and continue into the fall. Grown in Europe since ancient times, it is one of the most valuable herbs you can incorporate into your gardens. Just pick up a packet of seeds or a couple of small plants and off you go!