Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Miracle?

I had to smile when I downloaded the pictures from my Christmas day hike in the nearby South Mountain Reservation.  A red and green sun flare?  Really?  How funny.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Franchet Cotoneaster

cotoneaster franchetti

I first saw this shrub about a decade ago at the Planting Fields out on Long Island.  I put it on my wish list even though we lived in an apartment in Brooklyn with no garden.  Fast forward about 6 years and one house purchase later and I came across it for sale at a northern NJ nursery.  I'm thankful that I bought one as I've never seen it for sale again.

Like most cotoneasters, this shrub is vigorous and multi-stemmed.  Its spring flowering is mostly overlooked due to its placement at the back of the bed, but it really shines in the fall, when the competition around it dies back.  The leaves are mostly evergreen and but some turn a bright red in autumn.  The red berries are gorgeous.  Even the whitish undersides of the leaves are cool.


The shape of the 6' shrub is a bit unruly, as you can see, but I'll take what I can get this time of year.

Two complaints:  the heavy snow in winter breaks the older, more rigid stems, and this cotoneaster seems to be invasive on the West Coast.  I've never cleaned up the berries and have yet to see a seedling around it, but who knows?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Long Weekend

The cappuchino

The bench

The view from the bench

The troughs that I cast that day, fueled by the cappuchino 

The troughs will sit for 30 days, sealed in plastic in the basement, until just before Christmas, when I will set them out to spend a cold winter in the yard.  Come spring, I will find new owners for them.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Tender Trap

I imagine that if the tender succulents could talk it would sound something like this today:

"...but Daaaaaaaddd...all the the other plants get to play outside today... and it's such a nice day...why can't we?"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'

I've been accused of being a foliage (I think they mean "boring") gardener.  I take a weird sort of pride in enjoying the subtleties of shape and texture in the garden, especially in the ornamental grasses.  

For instance, I love the way the yellow and green colors of hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' contrast so startlingly with the creepy dead foliage of the kirengeshoma on the left.  It's a small thrill, I know, but it's as rewarding to me as any summer bloom.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


salix nakamurana var. yezoalpina

I love this dwarf alpine willow (thanks, Ray).  It's a tough groundcover willow that stays under 1' high but can get up to 8' wide.  I've had it in a trough for a year and a half or so and it doesn't show any signs of world domination yet.  It had a fairly modest show of catkins this spring (I'm hoping for more next year) and was a solid green texture all summer and fall, but I really like the nice yellow it has now.  I'm always reluctant to buy yellow-flowering plants because it's not my favorite color.  But now, on the cusp of coldness, yellow seems just right in the garden.  It's the end of the season; yellow signals capitulation.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Worth the Trouble

chasmanthium latifolium Northern Sea Oats

Sometimes one has to ignore the warnings.  

I've always loved Northern Sea Oats, even though I knew from volunteering at Green Dome Garden in Brooklyn that it can self-seed.  I put a couple in last year and the enjoyment that I got from them was worth the 30 minutes that it took me this spring to root out the unwanted seedlings.  I know that I could cut off the dry seed heads and avoid the self-seeding, but really, what's the point of having it then?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Know Just How You Feel, Friend

Hosta 'Sagae'

This photo made me laugh when I saw it on the computer monitor as it downloaded.  The collapsed hosta seemed kind of bittersweet in the context of our garden but was somehow absurd when isolated in a photo.

I couldn't help identifying with it today, though.  I started a full time job this past Monday, my first since quitting 5 years ago to be home with the kids.  It's the weekend, but I'm exhausted.  I really missed seeing the garden every day and noticing the tiny changes.  There should be another word to use when we say "work in the garden".  Cleaning up perennials and raking outside today was completely different than the "work" that I did all week in Manhattan.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sunday Morning

Light frost on a hellebore (above) and lambs ears (below)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Trash-picked holly

One night last week I found this female holly thrown out in the trash by my neighbor the landscaper.  It was in its nursery pot and its leaves were still flexible, but I couldn't tell much more since it was so dark when I stumbled across it.  I stashed it in my driveway until I could inspect it the next morning.  In the sunlight of the next day I could see that it wasn't obviously diseased, had been clipped back this year and had a few berries still attached.  Aside from being slightly rootbound I couldn't see why it had been discarded.

I planted it into an unsold Stewart container so that I can enjoy it all winter.  Maybe I can cast a larger container for it in the spring or find it a home at a friend's house.  For now, it's free winter interest.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ahhhh, Much Better

I replaced the three chair arms broken by a falling limb last week.  It always surprises me how easy such a repair is versus how annoyed I was that it happened.  They are safe on the deck, out of range of falling limbs, for the winter.  They've got a few more years left with me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Think I Know Now

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'

I've had this witch hazel four years now and it's finally getting its legs under it.  Admittedly, it was tiny when I put it in.  I'm always excited when it opens its yellow, strappy flowers in early March.  It's kind of like the starting gun to the growing season for me.

I know that it was developed at the Harvard University Arnold Arboretum (that's the 'Arnold' in its name).  But 'Promise'?  Today I realized the promise is this: great fall color.

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Snow? WTF?

Silver maple limbs crunched my chairs

We hadn't even had a killing frost when we got hit with heavy, wet snow on Saturday.  With its leaves still on, the huge maple in our backyard dropped a lot of branches and limbs.  I was working in the back garden during the heaviest of the snow, desperately trying to tie up a couple shrubs that were in danger of breaking, when the limbs started coming down.  There would be a big CRACK! and then the slow motion whooshing sound as the limb fell.  All around us the neighbors' trees were doing the same. I got the heck out the yard quickly.  I looked back to see the Adirondack chairs that I built in 2006 take a direct hit.  I wanted to retrieve them but thought better of it.  

Maple mess

A four foot tall hydrangea reduced to a ground cover in the front yard

This hydrangea rebounded stem by stem as it shed the snow

Hyacinth beans with snow?  What a weird sight.

The mums didn't seem to care

 The birds love the new brushpile under the bird feeder.  I'll get it all to the township recycling center, where it will be ground into mulch, sometime soon.  Can we get a break from the extreme weather, please?  I'd like to plant my bulbs before the next calamity.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Millenium Park Chicago

Lurie Garden, Millenium Park

Snapshots of me visiting my old friend, the city of Chicago (thanks Andrew).  I lived there for four years in the early 90's and in some ways I'll always love Chicago.  It was the first big city that I ever lived in and the sense of freedom and possibility was totally new to me.  Seeing the improvements to Grant Park and the city in general, after being away for so long, was like seeing a long lost friend and realizing that she's really become something great.

Reflection in Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Early Autumn

The patio behind the garage can be enjoyed once again now that the cooler weather has slowed the mosquitos down to a harmless nuisance.  Yeah, the doublefile viburnum needs to be pruned, the potentilla groundcover needs to be controlled, and the Salmon Dawn rose lost all its leaves to black spot...so what.  It still feels great to sit on a cool bench and just take it in.  Next year I'll try again to get it right.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October Troughs and Plants

September and October have been moist and a bit cooler, perfect weather for making troughs.  I think I've made ten or so since Labor Day, including these two Helsinki troughs.  I'd like to make a grouping of them in my yard for planting in the spring.  I sold these two yesterday at our local rock garden club meeting so I'll be making more in November.

sedum hispanicum var. minor

sedum sieboldii getting ready to bloom

Frankenia laevis, a new plant for me this year.  I love its delicate reddish coloring this time of year.  It should spread next year to make a cascading mat with white or pink flowers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Two Trough Designs

 Above photo is from last week.  It's a variation on a trough that I made in June (photo below) using a solid foam inner core and no outer mold.  The first planter looked a little lumpen and boring to me so last month I cast it again, but this time with a lip.  Initially I was excited by the newer, fancier design, but as I looked at them side by side I realized I liked the humbleness of the original.  It feels like an old boot or something.  It's not trying to be anything other than what it is.  It won't try to upstage the plants.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Best Foot, I mean Face, Forward

Front yard.  Tiny, but packed.  Zinnias, mums and asters carrying it now.

View from the other corner.  I like the pink mum with the silver lambs ear.

pennisetum alopecuroides with dark ajuga

unknown aster thru calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Forester'

Home Depot mum from a couple years ago.  I pinched it back ruthlessly all summer to prevent it from flowering in early August.

Annual yellow milkweed sown from last year's saved seed

Love this combo of harsh yellow marigold and blue car.  Too bad it doesn't park in front of our house all the time.  Since I planted the curb strip I sort of feel bad for passengers that have to get out in front since there's little room to step.  Then I get over it.

Zinnias in all their grandmotherly glory.

Another mum from Home Depot a few years ago. 

The front yard is sort of a mish-mash of things to ensure that we always have something blooming.  The passersby, neighbors (Frankie, at least), and butterflies seem to enjoy it.  I felt a small burst of pride last fall when I saw a woman walk by and surreptitiously snip off a dried zinnia flower.  Aha, I thought, another gardener thinking about next year.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Autumn Beauties

gentiana scabra autumn gentian

 aster ericoides white heath aster

 rosularia sedoides var. alba

sedum cauticola again

a pass-along toad lily from Brooklyn

ilex verticillata 'Spriber'