Thursday, July 31, 2008


I had dinner at my friend Virginia's the other night: she is a terrific potter and had new worked glazed in gorgeous chartreuse, my favorite color. I am a sucker for any plant with chartreuse flowers or foliage. It glows in the garden bringing light and air to even gloomy flowerless shade.

In the first picture there is a bouquet of chartreuse Lady's Mantle flowers and steel blue eryngium, a pretty but prickly flower. The garden shot shows the little iris cristata which blooms briefly each spring with the golden leafed grass hakonechloa macra "Aureola" and the beautiful chartreuse cultivar of thalictrum.

In choosing chartreuse plants you are limited only by the size of your garden and your pocketbook. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of golden hostas, and several gorgeous heucheras including 'lime rickey'.

Two pretty ground covers are vinca 'illuminatation' and lysimachia nummularia 'aurea', which is chartreuse in shade but bright yellow with too much sun. For a taller lysimachia there is 'goldilocks'.

The thalictrum mentioned above and filipendula aurea are lovely bits of golden lace. I have some chartreuse leafed columbines I grew from seed. The foliage is gorgeous, the flowers a rather drab blue purple. Herbs include golden oregano, several thymes and sages though I have had some trouble wintering all of these over in my cold garden. Centaurea 'gold bullion' and spiderwort 'sweet Kate' are both spectacular with their blue-purple flowers against the golden foliage. And the foliage of dicentra 'gold heart' is lovely with the little pink hearts.

Though not hardy there are many pretty chartreuse and gold varieties of geraniums and coleus.

There are beautiful chartreuse shrubs: several Japanese maples, philadelphus 'aurea' (mock orange), golden spirea, carytoperus 'Worcester gold'. The latter should not be hardy in my garden but has lasted here for several years.

Find of the Day

I usually like to include a flower find in my post. These earring are not flowers but I cannot resist the color, I have a purse that matches this lovely green. Paring the bright blue finding with this green is color genius. They are made by Strange Little Bird (


I am a great fan of alliums, the lovely ornamental onions. Most gardeners are familiar with the spring and early summer flowering bulbs. They emerge as great purple or white balls of tiny flowers and then their foliage dies away like daffodil and tulips foliage.
Although I have read that only people eat onions I have found that many of my alliums disappear after a few years. I don't know if they are dinner for my underground neighbors or the conditions in my garden don't meet their long term needs.
Luckily two of my favorites are very long lived. Allium Globemaster is a hybrid cross of A. Christophii and A. elatum. It is a huge allium with a 10" ball of little purple flowers that can soar 3 feet tall. Although it is expensive you only need a few for a spectacular display, a display that will come back year after year. Plus, the flowers are sterile so they last and last in the garden or in a vase, keeping there color for about a month.
But for a lasting dried flower they can't compare to their parent species, allium christophii. These huge silvery balls dry to spectacular dried flowers that last for years in a dried arrangement. A. christophii, alas, tends to disappear from my garden over time.

The alliums in the photographs are allium tanguticum, a less well know but very long lived species. The alliums I discribed earlier are classified as SUDS, summer-dormant species. As noted they act like typical bulbs and their foliage dies back after they flower. A. tanguticum is a SUTS, a summer thriving species. It does not flowers until July and the foliage stays pretty and green all season. It is a wonderful perennial with the clumps getter larger and larger each year. I think this can occasionally be purchased in pots at nurseries. I buy mine from the McClure & Zimmerman bulb catalogue, and plant it in the fall at the same time as tulips and daffodils. This is not a huge allium, just a foot or so high but with dozens and dozens of pretty purple balls.

Garden Resourses;

The Perennial Gardener by Frederick McGourty
A wonderfully informative and entertaining gardening book. It has a very detailed and informative chapter about alliums, SUDS and SUTS.

McClure & Zimmerman
Quality Flowerbulb Brokers
An excellent and reliable source for bulbs including many rarities.

Flower Find.
I am in love with Jennifer Morris's jewelry. (Please note if my husband is reading this, something to remember for Christmas) She makes the beads from polymer clay and each is a tiny work of floral art. Esquisite. You can see her jewelry at

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Green Thumb/Black Thumb

A friend asked me to include some gardening tips for those with black thumbs and I have tried to offer planting and growing information in each post. But I agree with Henry Mitchell's words in the Essential Earthman:
"Now the gardener is the one who has seen everything ruined so many times that (even as his pain increases with each loss) he comprehends--truly knows--that where there was a garden once, it can be again,...There are no green thumbs or black thumbs. There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating, in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises. what makes gardeners." p. 3

Weather, soil, hard work, all are part of gardening. But in the end a garden is a precarious undertaking. Plants themselves have minds of their own. A friend gave me three divisions of sedum Autumn Joy, an easy and reliable plant. I planted the three divisions in a triangle in nice garden soil. Two of the divisions thrived , the third just sat there. I left the plants for three years with the two lusty sisters growing into huge plants while the runt barely held onto life. Same soil, same plant, who can explain it? I finally moved the runt to a new spot and there is flurished.

So I suppose the best advice to gardeners is to persevere, just keep planting and something will like you and grow. The coneflowers in these photographs are extremely easy , they seem to do well no matter how they are treated. There are also many pretty new hybrids in opulent colors and more restrained sizes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


A quiet pastel garden is lovely and restful. But I love color like this explosion in my friend Stephanie's garden.
Orange and magenta are not for timid souls but wow, they are gorgeous. My own front entry garden is full of California poppies in bright oranges and yellows growing in front of magenta purple phlox. Wear your sunglasses when you come to visit.

Flower Find.
And here is a hat for the brave. Isn't this beautiful? It is called "Dorothy Parker" and it does make me think of New York City in a more glamorous era. The hat is custom made by BoringSidney (now how could anyone who designed this hat possibly be boring??) and can be ordered at

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sweet Peas

Lathyrus odoratus, the annual sweet pea, is a favorite flower. The colors are gorgeous, the fragrance exquisite.

It is not the easiest flower to grow however. I start mine indoors but plant them out quickly so they don't become a tangled mess. Soak the seeds a few hours before planting. They need rich soil and cool, moist weather, which can be hard to supply in American gardens. The older varieties, often labeled "antique" have smaller flowers but are more forgiving of an imperfect environment. The first picture here shows a very old variety that is an easy grower 'Matucana'. What these old varieties lose in flower size they compensate for with their intense perfumes. You can smell this flower all over the garden.

There is also a very pretty perennial sweet pea, lathyrus latifolius. It is usually available in pink shades but I have a pure white (seen in the second picture) that is very pretty. This plant is very easy to grow and easily started from seed. It is dead hardy. It is a very strong grower and would be a great choice to hide an unsightly structure or fence. It does need a trellis or other support, it is not goint to hold on with suckers like an ivy. Unfortunately it has no perfume.

Flower Find

Another project for these endless rainy days or a cold winter evening might be these cross stitch sweet peas. The pattern was adapted by Jfrank1970 from a painting by Sue Woodfine and is available from her shop on Etsy, She also has other patterns available and can supply kits.

Will It Ever Stop Raining????

One thing every gardener can rely on is that there will always be weather to complain about. An early heat wave cut short the daffodil season. This May we had barely a drop of rain, so we could moan about the drought. Of course the drought was broken in June in time for storms to beat the peonies and iris to the ground.

And July has brought endless storms and rain. I weeded the front garden during a brief interlude but a week later, with the lush tropical conditions, they are bigger and better than ever. I suppose they appreciated my giving them elbow room.
As Henry Mitchell says, "When we complain of weather we are always on firm ground. It is not imagination or idle dreaming; there is excellent reason for complaint....The first time a storm rips all the peonies to pieces-the gardener has waited two years and done a good bit of scratching about with wood ashes and has chopped out tree roots and has set up stakes-the pain is severe. Within a few years, however, the gardener begins to realize there has never yet been a single year in which everything did well. And (usually after forty years or so) he notices that no year is without some special splender. Most of us can remember years when the irises were unearthly in their perfection, day after day after day of flawless flowers. I have seen two such years myself in the past forty-three." The Essential Earthman p.9-10.

Garden Resource

Henry Mitchell is my favorite garden writer, if you have not read his books you are in for a treat. Mr. Mitchell wrote a gardening column for the Washington Post for many years and his books are compilations of these columns. They are full of grace and wit, wisdom and great information about gardening and plants. And many are laugh out loud funny. There is no garden snobbery here just love of gardens, gardeners and the natural world as seen in a little garden in Washington D.C.

The Essential Earthman

One Man's Garden

Henry Mitchell on Gardening

All are readily available on Amazon and at most local bookstores.

The Bracelet

This is how I spend my time on these endless rainy days, crocheting very thin Artists wire and beautiful beads together into sparkly bracelets. This one uses two colors of wire, dark plum with an edging of bright magental and Swarovski crystals, Czech fire polished crystals, and seed beads in a variety of colors and sizes. The bracelet and many of the photographs here are available from my shop on Etsy,

Friday, July 18, 2008


Although daylilies are wonderful garden plants to me they don't compare to the true liles. Sadly, I have lost my lilies to the nasty red lily beetle that has invaded New England. It did not reach us in New Hampshire until a few years ago but the results have been devasting. I don't use pesticides in my garden and am not diligent enough to save the lilies by constantly picking off the bugs.
But I am beginning to see lilies again in local gardens so I think I will order some bulbs for fall planting and give it another try. Perhaps the bugs died off or migrated away after they had destroyed their food supply? I am going to just try a few bulbs and plant them near the front door so I can watch them carefully.
The lilies in this bouquet are asiastic lilies, the easiest lilies to grow. They flower early in the summer in many soft colors. They don't have much scent. The later lilies, the trumpets and the heavenly orientals have the powerful perfumes. I love the oriental lilies, with their gorgeous, exotic good looks and aroma. I can't bring them into the house however because their perfume gives my husband intense headaches.
The second phograph shows some hot pink orientals mixed with some double orange daylilies, not a bouquet for the timid.

Growing lilies
Aside from the horrible red lily beetle, lilies are not hard to grow, though the trumpets will need staking and some of the orientals seem to peter out after the first year much like tulips. Since they can be expensive this is not an endearing habit. For me it is worth it to plant at least a few.
They are planted in the fall at the same time as tulips and daffodils. Now is the time to order!
Lilies, like tulips, are a favorite dinner for the the little animals living under the garden. I usually plant mine wrapped in plastic mesh, the kind that you buy oranges and other produce in. The roots and flower shoots come right through but it is unappetizing to flower predators.

This incredible bridal gown looks like an exotic lily with the beautiful trumpet spread out on the floor. The draping flow and the exquisite hem design take my breath away. The dress is called Medieval Fantasy Couture Reinactment Fairy Dress and it is handmade by Kathleen Crowley of San Francisco. It is made of silk charmeuse but can also be ordered in other fabrics. Truly a fantasy gown.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bog Garden

I'm happy to say that the birds have found my cherry tree. I saw a robin and a scarlet tananger munching away and the cherries are almost all gone.
I spent the morning weeding the little bog garden in this photo. It was originally a little pond but we did not maintain it well. It is only about a foot and a half deep and lined with rubber. When we decided to give up the pond we just filled the rubber lined hole with dirt. It is a perfect spot to grow plants that like very moist soil .
The yellow trollius shown here love the damp and grow exuberantly, they are almost three feet tall in this spot.
When I first planted the garden I planted filipendula but it loved the wet soil too much and filled the entire garden by the end of the first summer. All of the filipendula has been moved and I now use this little area for the trollius, iris ensata, and Siberian iris. All of these grow well in ordinary garden soil but love this boggy spot.

Flower Find

Who could not love a Jerry Garcia Grateful Dead Peace Crane? The red flower paper is gorgeous and it is embellished with glitter. Handmade by Localcolorist

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Where are the Birds and Bees?

It was great fun to photograph my garden from inside my cherry tree. (I am using my new Lensbaby soft focus lens which I love.) But I don't understand why I have all these cherries, every other year the tree is stripped by hungry birds before they even turn red. And a friend told me today that the birds have not eaten her blackberries this year. Should I be worried, where are the birds?
Everyone is concerned about the disappearance of honey bees. And apparently bats are threatened by a new disease;we haven't seen any bats this summer. There have been very few fireflies and no June bugs. What a loss if these are also at risk. We called fireflies lightning bugs when I was a child. My own daughter thought they were fairy lights. And how can it be summer without the June bugs banging on the screens?
Apparently the mosquitos and black flies are doing fine. Sigh.

I call the top picture the Bride. Hostas are generally grown for their interesting foliage but some of them also have beautiful flowers.

Flower Find
Isn't this the world's prettiest apron? If I didn't hate to cook I would buy it in an instant. It has flowers and a dragonfly on the pocket. Flowers and bugs. The apron is called Dragonfly and is handmade by PrettyDitty.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Maidenhead Fern

Ferns can be a wonderful addition to the shady garden. However, they should be used with care since many are very aggressive and spread by underground runners. They can easily over run the border. But many are wonderful feathery additions to the garden, staying lush and green all summer. The Japanese Painted fern is never a problem. My favorite is the Maidenhair fern which stays where it is planted, slowly growing into a nice sized plant The first picture shows the maidenhair fern in early spring when it is about to unfurl. The second was taken in my friend Marion's garden. She has planted several different fern behind her Japanese primroses for an effective backdrop. I don't fuss with my maidenhairs. plant them in ordinary garden soil in partial to full shade. The maidenhair seems quite drought tolerant and I don't water it unless there is an extended period without rain.
Flower Find
This maidenhair fern scarf is hand painted silk by Morgansilk. Her silk scarves are each a work of art.

California Poppies

Eschscholzia californica. The California poppy is not a true poppy but it shares their lovely papery petals and form.
The native California poppy comes in lovely warm orange shades but the hybrids come in many shades of orange, red, creamy whites and pinks. There are singles and doubles, all very beautiful.
These poppies are quite hardy and even in New Hampshire can be started early by seed strewn outside or started in little peat pots that can be planted out in early May even before the last frost.

A Flower Find
If you prefer to wear your flowers what about this cute poppy skirt? Made by AnnaBlues of pumpkin colored corduroy over layers of netting and a wild flower print. Gorgeous.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ordering Spring Bulbs – Tulips

Now is the time to order bulbs to plant this fall for blooms in the spring. Tulips are a dilemma, their allure is intense, they come in so many colors and sizes and shapes and their beauty rivals the great peonies and iris. The simple singles are elegant and jewel colored. The doubles are lush and voluptuous. And little compares with the parrots in their myriad flaming colors for pure flamboyancy. The tulips below are pink parrots.
So what is the dilemma? They are not hard to grow. You put them in the ground and next spring tulips appear. But they are not easy to keep. Aside from the little species tulips they are not very perennial; after they flower the bulbs tend to divide themselves into little bulbs. They can be dug up and grown on for a few years to make new big plants but I don’t know of anyone, other than the Dutch bulb companies, who do this. Or they can be left in the ground to come back as smaller and smaller plants and flowers each year.
But in reality, one doesn’t even get to watch the dwindling plants very often since they are great favorites of all the little creatures that live (very happily I am sure) below our gardens. Often they find the newly planted bulbs even before the first year’s flowers. Few gardeners really enjoy buying this expensive rodent food. So what to do? Not growing tulips is simply not an option, they are too beautiful, and in my opinion the most beautiful ones cannot even be purchased as cut flowers.

How To Grow Tulips
I have found a few “solutions” none of which are particularly satisfactory. They can be soaked in a rodent repellant before planting and if the infestation is not too intense most will come up the first year. (After that they become dinner). More successful is to plant them in big sunken pots. I have lots of the ugly big green pots that shrubs come in and these work very well. I simply dig a big hole and put in the pot. Then I put in about half of the soil, set in the bulbs and cover with the rest of the dirt. You can even do several layers if the pot is big enough or put a layer of smaller bulbs (crocus or chiondoxa or something) on top.
Sometimes I have a space right in the garden where I want tulips so I sink the pot right there. Otherwise I will sink them in the vegetable garden and dig up the pot in the spring and put it where I want it. You don’t need to cover the pot with chicken wire since the varmints go throw the ground sideways not from on top. You can use this method with crocus another great critter favorite but in that case I think the chicken wire is needed to protect the tiny bulbs.
You can leave the tulips in the ground in these pots and you will continue to get tulips for a few years though usually they will get smaller each year.

Great Swaths of Tulips
Occasionally I need to treat myself to a great swath of tulips. This is an expensive treat since I do it realizing that it is a one time event. The purple tulips garden in the first picture is an example of this. To me it was worth the effort and the expense, it was glorious and with all the different tulips it lasted for weeks. I bought tulips in all different shapes and sizes but all purples. Singles, doubles, mostly dark purple, with a few lilac colors. My husband removed the sod from the lawn in front of an old lilac and I planted the bulbs into the earth with a long trowel. Then we put the sod back on top. It is important to use ground that is not part of the garden so the critters will not find the bulbs the first year.
The first year was beautiful, the second year I had a bloom or two, none since. It was worth it to me but I won’t be able to afford it again at least until my daughter finishes college.

There are many wonderful bulb companies. A favorite is , a true labor of love by founder Scott Kunst. is Old House Gardens. ( The catalogue is devoted to the preservation of antique and rare bulbs, many of which would have been lost to gardeners forever without his efforts. The catalogue itself is beautiful both on line and in print. Many of the bulbs offered are not available anywhere else. He even has true Rembrandt or broken tulips, the focus of the great tulip frenzy. I read this catalogue from cover to cover. It is full of good information and dazzling descriptions. The drawback is that you will want everything.

A Tulip Find.

These little blue tulip earrings are vintage German beads from the 1940’s set on hand crafted ear wires by executeme ( They are only $20 and they won’t disappear over winter like the real ones. She has many other lovely flower earrings in her shop.