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September 21, 2017

End of Summer Dahlias, Cyclamen and Veggies

'Jomanda', a handsome example of symmetry, and a hard-to-find favorite amongst growers of show dahias.
 A quick post as this is Wednesday and I need to get back into the groove of posting (at least) on Wednesdays agaimn. It's finally raining here, but while it is welcome, our second annual New England Dahlia Society show is this coming weekend at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, so you can imagine how rain can ruin a crop of fancy exhibition dahlias. Many have broken in this last gasp from Hurricane José, but I suppose the watermelons and peppers are happy.

My row of Jomanda holding up during the remnants of Tropical Storm José, their stems are stronger than most of my other dahlias. Show or exhibition dahlias are usually different varieties than those found at stores. You have to order early from specialist dahlia nurseries.

Joe had a hernia opperation last week and I had gum grafts done on some implants so the garden is looking horrible, except in macro shots.  The dahlias that havnt been ruined by the rain, are looking gorgeous, and the vegetables are coming in by the truckload (mostly becasue of my book), but most are going to the womens recovery shelter near us because Joe doesnt feel like eating anything, and I cant eat anything unless it is pureed (if youve ever had gum grafts, then you know what I mean. My dentist told me that it may take 3 weeks or more to heal the roof of my mouth where they cut the grafts from. Right now, it's just as if I ate a scalding hot pizza - I know). It's not a good time for chili peppers to be coming in from the garden!

Need to go look for the tag for this dahlia, it may look perfect by this weekend when our New England Dahlia Society held at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

The rain and wind has really brought many of the dahlias down so only a few are going to make it to the show. I tried to stake them as best as I could but learning to master exhibition dahlias is still challenging. I should probably just grow cut flowers instead and not worry about perfection and disbudding.

Some varieties like this fromal ball-type known as 'Skipley Lois Jean'. They  almost made it for the show, but as you can see, the center is open showing pollen. It would be disqualified for being too open, but I may have enough of these to enter a five stem class. Fingers crossed.

The rain during the storm really helped how the ornamental kale looked (as well as the fennel pollen).


Kiss Me OVer the Garden Gate or Polegonum orientale continues to put on a show, it just keeps looking better and better, larger than the banana's which it is planted next to in my sweet spot next to the geenhouse and over 12 feet tall, the dangling flowers really look terrific now in September.

Speaking of the genus Polygonum this relative Persicaria amplexicaulis is generally a weedy genus but in the right spot, I am finding this genus most useful, especially in late summer. This one, a perennial species.



I had a big surprise when I went out to the greenhouse today - the cyclamen bed was not only in full bloom, but there was little to no foliage proving that my theory was right - if you don't water your species cyclamen when the autumn weather first arrives and allow the pots to just slowly uptake a bit of moisture from their pots which are sitting on damp sand, one can get pots of lovely cyclamen (sans foliage) which enhances their appearance. 


This white form of Cyclamen hederifolium is particularly nice. No worries, the foliage will come soon now that I watered the plunge bed but most alpine plant exhibitors prefer pots that bloom without folaige.

I'm also learning that I don't need to repot my cyclamen every year or every other year. These have been in their pots for 3 or 4 years now and getting better and better. This is Cyclamen graecum, and while tender and it goes dormant during the summer like most other species except the trick here is to keep the pots on slightly damp sand, and the root make tremendous growth during the hot and dry summer (just like in their native Greece). Trying to pull a pot off of the bed is now difficult.

I've been so busy on my book. It's been crazy this week after Joe's hernia surgery and my gum grafts (so painful), the last thing I want to eat are any veggies, especially chili peppers (and we have so many this year!).


Joe picked various varieties of artichokes for the chapter on artichokes and cardoons.


The oriental radish shot is over, so I just piled my props from the garden on a plate to tease you with how pretty they are. They won't go to waste. Making Kimchi is on the schedule this week.
One more teaser for the book - watermelons after a photoshoot are making their way back to the kitchen. They wont last long even though we've been shooting melons for about two weeks now.



Late summer bulbs always remind me of hurricane season, and these habranthus and rain lilies are alway surprising us with a few extra blooms in the autumn. I keep a few pots on the gravel walks so that I dont miss them.

This Amarcrinum x is not only large, nearly three feet tall, it is sweet scented. So fragrant that the entire deck smells like sun tan lotion in the evening.

Late crops of lettuce now replace the tomatoes in the raised beds. Some of these will mature soon like these 'Winter Density' heads of lettuce, just enough for the kitchen in early autumn, but more varieties have been sown along with four types of endive, which are all planted in the other four raised cedar beds.



Around the garden, the chickens are segregated into two groups. The barred rocks stay in one coop with their rooster, and these Americanas hang out on the walk because there are only three of them. We call the two girls 'the twins' and the rooster is Joshua. Don't ask.

Our Indian Runner Ducks are laying so many eggs that we are giving them away to everyone we know. They are free range and enjoy running out back in the weeds and squash/melon beds. I hope they are eating all of the Asian jumping worms we currently have (I think they are).


One last shot of the deck window box - the colors are so different, especially with that thumbergia - I am so impressed with how well the vines did. I may do all of the windows this way next year.

September 17, 2017

Botanical Treasures in Patsy Highberg's Vermont Idyll

A lily pool in the Vermont garden on Patsy Highberg, a noted plantswoman, alpine plant enthusiast and local philanthropist who's garden is occasionally on choice garden tours in the northeast.


While visiting Vermont last weekend photographing another private garden, Joe and I paid a visit to our dear friend Patsy Highberg as her garden is one which we've been trying to get up to see since forever. Patsy turns 80 this month, which is about 49 or 50 in Patsy years. She's such a remarkable plantswoman and so active that she's rarely around - last June we were hiking with her at the NARGS annual meeting at Steamboat Springs CO at 9,000 feet, and this spring when I had some free time I called her to see if I could come up and visit her amazing garden but she just happened to leaving to go hiking in the Italian Dolomites (on another NARGS tour). Plantspeople are busy folk indeed.





I've been getting so many opportunities lately as folks seem to be realizing that I am no longer working that although so grateful for the opportunities, my schedule is jam packed with all sorts of fun, creative and just plain interesting projects. Apparently some people think that I'm a good garden photographer so these photo assignments have been coming (most of which I cannot talk about as they are confidential - but then many of my projects seem to be secretive, which I completely understand coming out of my last corporate job).


This crab apple tree in Patsy Highberg's garden is pruned in such a way that it extends out in an attractive way.

While shooting a private estate in  ever so posh and lovely Woodstock Vermont, I was offered the opportunity to drive down the road to finally see Patsy's place (she actually bumped into my friend at the country store and when she heard that Joe and I were coming up for the weekend, invited us over for a drink and then dinner on our last day there). Vermont towns are small.


Patsy's driveway is long and gated, she lives on a long dirt road on a hilltop in south central Vermont, but once you enter her compound the forest of Vermont transforms into a plant hunters paradise. Asian plants, alpine plants, rare trees and shrubs, unusual woodland treasures are everywhere. This is exactly the sort of garden which one could spend hours in as botanical treasures are everywhere one looks.


At the same time , I'm busy working on my book of course with the first chapter due this week, and working through a long photo shoot list myself  - with more than 400 photos, the schedule for my book is consuming enough time already (which is why I haven't been posting much lately - I hope that the book doesn't interfere too much with blogging, but if it does, please understand.). I have so many researched and more complex posts half written, but I never seem to get them completed. Maybe someday I'll just post them all just the way they are. Rants, rambles and long. As for DIY and more detailed 'how-to' posts, I can't seem to use any of my vegetable ones as that would violate my publishing contract (for now), so posts may be more like this - just diary posts which are easier for me to toss out during Dancing with the Stars. (No, I don't watch Dancing with the Stars). During Project Runway then. I have to decompress somehow.


A potted Crinum blooms near the vegetable and cutting garden just off of the main driveway. 


One of my favorite plants is this Rodgersia podophylla. I plant many in my garden whenever I can find one in a catalog or at a nursery.

I don't believe that I've ever seen a seed pod on a Glaucidium palmatum. How extraordinary, and this reminds me that sometimes touring a botanically interesting garden in late summer or autumn is just as interesting as in May or June which is when most garden tours happen.

So many gardeners overlook great plants at the nursery simply because they shop in May and never realize that what looked like a boring foliage plant like this Kirengeshoma palmata - a plant I was fortunate to use in a recent garden I designed because the client was open to trying something new. I can't wait to hear from him once it bloom. 

Patsy and Joe checking out something interesting.  (Patsy is the one in pink, of course, because anyone who knows Patsy knows that she loves color, especially pink - even her garage is painted bright pink inside!).

Check out this amazing colony of the Japanese lasyslipper Cypripedium japonica!

Cyclamen species were popping up everywhere (and I'm still cautious about planting out my extra seedlings! I really need to get bolder with the use of cyclamen outdoors). Patsy told me that the ants have planted all of these (they do the same thing in my greenhouse, and it's how most species in this genus get sown in wild populations).
Cyclamen species all ant-sown; Looks like C. coum, C. Purpurescens maybe and C. hederifolium. Patsy wasn't sure, but who cares? When it comes to cyclamen in the garden, one can never have enough.



Patsy's rock garden is classic and large. Most rock or alpine gardens look best in early spring, but here we are in September and even in early autumn it was impressive.

Maidenhair fern colony growing below Patsy's deck.

Hardy Begonia grandis looking terrific in the setting sun. Dan Hinkley told me that everyone should be growing this plant more, so at the NARGS plant auction this past weekend, I picked up a few more for my garden.



Late blooming alpine Astilbe
( perhaps A. chinensis pumila).

I was fascinated by how Patsy's gardener staked each stem on this large clump of Anemonopsis. My plant flops terribly, so next year......

After visiting Patsy's Joe and I went back to the estate where we were guests. The woodlands around the property were green and lush given all of the rain from hurricanes, and an unusually wet summer. I adore Vermont, it would be my first choice of any state if I could afford a home there.

Joe videos a stream on the property where we were staying. Can you imaging having a waterfall like this with those moss covered stones in your own back yard? And, it was all natural.





September 11, 2017

Student Research Projects Also Suffer when Serious Natural Disasters Strike, When Timing Throws a Curve Ball

Evan Eifler from the University of Wisconsin, Madison who is attempting to raise funds to help him collect and study and obscure biodiverse genus in South Africa.


Most of us care - and often at all levels. Help is needed most everywhere, so we who can, spread what support we can offer around the best we can. Allow me to share this student who I randomly came across today through an email from a bulb society. For many reasons, I could relate (As in: It was 1978 and I was raising money to participate in a  student research project in Hudon Bay Canada defining feeding assemblages with sub-arctic avifauna and how they interacted with plant species......)

Meet Evan Eifler, I don't know him, have never met him, and in fact only just read a group email from him (on my Pacific Bulb Society distribution list) which I read this morning while watching the updates on the hurricanes. I think helping him might be something we could all do to help him reach his goal in 18 days. I noticed that he just arrived in South Africa and has already seen two species of Geissoriza, a small bulb with a large number of species, most are lovely yet small. So little in known about this genus, that his study may uncover over the next few months.


I've included a few links here to his crowdsourcing page, and even though he is already in South Africa, I would imagine that the will be able to accomplish so much more if he gets some help financially during this time of refocused donations do to two very severe natural disasters. I suppose, in some way, scientific and especially botanical research is experiencing a bit to a natural disaster at the moment too, ( if you know what I mean).



Evan Eifler, a research graduate student from the University of Wisconsin, Madison has posted fundraising effort of a crowdsourcing site for scientists and research students to help him complete his project.

Yes, I've literally sat and watched about 48 hours of hurricane coverage. On social media, I've been reading all of the posts from those affected and sometimes their loved ones who might be searching for their pets or friends,  yet then, I ran across this one email  - a thank your note sent to a small group of donors on the Pacific Pub Society web distribution list.  This request for really, not that much money was completely under my radar. If you would want to help a total stranger, but what appears to be a dedicated and focused research student as he attempts to collect DNA and samples from a curious genus of plants with the goals of bringing some order to a muddled taxonomy, please take this opportunity.

Evan is well known it seems among research students, he was awarded a scholarship a year and a half ago by the Botanical Society of America as seed money for this project.


Anyway, this struck me as something I might like to contribute a bit to also, as these projects often fail without support during tough times. If interested, you can give here:


 HELP EVAN RESEARCH AND COLLECT IN THE CAPE FLORISTIC REGION.


Evan will be collecting date and DNA to aid in his research of this massive genus.