April 28, 2009

Frits and frats - Fritillaria persica

Fritillaria persica

A slightly less common Fritillary, Fritillaria persica is completely growable for many North American and European gardeners. The best strain apparently is one called 'Adiyaman' but it is muddled, and few can offer the accurate form. Still, the bulb is carried by most retailers of Dutch bulbs in the fall, and I encourage all to buy as many as you can afford. Like many large bulbs, they are not inexpensive, but a dozen or two make the best impression.

Fast drainage and summer dryness is preferred by this native of Iran, I grow mine in a raised rock garden, with gravelly soil and deep snowcover, since it slides off of the greenhouse onto this foundation bed. It seems to work. Many say to plant the large skunky scented bulbs on their sides, since water can collect in the cavity on the top, but they will reset themselves in one growing season, so it seems fruitless to do do. Try all of the Frits, they are awesome when they are seen in bloom.

Espalier Apples

This weekend I planted four espaliered apples along the back of the kitchen garden, infront of the greenhouse main bluestone walk lined with boxwood. This part of the garden, which was all weed trees and weeds chest high four years ago, is still in the re-building phase, even though you might think that the photos make it look rather fancy, if I stepped sideways or turned around, you would see the mess......maybe I should do that for a posting...show the reality of the place! It's a little embarasing.
Training fruit trees into classic and simple forms for beauty or space, is an ancient art perfected by the French in the 17th Century. In the 17th Century, 'espalier' originally referred to the frame or trellis on which the plant was trained. Today, espalier refers to both the two-dimensional tree or shrub or the horticultural technique of actually training the plant. My first exposure to espaliered trees came at a young age, when I was working at a private estate while in high school. Espaliared pear trees, not unlike my new set up, were planted in Mr. Stoddard's boxwood garden she called the Williamsburg Garden, a tiered, formal boxxwood planting which enclosed small plots of vegetables for her kitchen. We mostly grew herbs and Romain lettuce, if I remember correctly, but the one thing I did remember was her two rows of espaliered pears, which never became ripe in time for me to enjoy, for I had to return to school in the fall. ( clearly, I am not over it yet!), But now.......

I will have my own fruit harvest!!! This time, appled. Winter Banana and Cox' Orange Pippins anyone?

It doesn't matter where one lives, you could have espaliered trees......All you need is a wall, or a fence, or construct a structure like this one in Australia.

Image from Sydney Morning Herald, Australia ©Cheryl Maddocks
Even in Japan, or Germany I have seen amazing espaliered forms of fruit trees and other woody plants, trained into classic 'espaliared' froms or even in simple rows, for the main reason is space reduction, even though they look beautiful to the eye year round. This is an economical way to both add structure to you garden and to add to your harvest. Add in blossoms in the spring, and a nifty hedge, and it's clear that this is a 24/7 hit.

Classic Espaliered forms can be found in many vintage books on gardening
Even Martha Stewart has Espaliered trees....but a few more than I do! check out her blog posting from last week....

April 26, 2009

Plants by Mail - Do you get what you pay for?

As we clean and prep the gardens for some garden tours next week, the greenhouse garden has never looked better.

Early narcissus with pink rimmed trumpets blooms near the door of the greenhouse. ( I lost the variety name).

The alpine troughs that sit on the bluestone walk that leads to the greenhouse are starting to bloom, with tiny Primula, androsace and Draba starting the show.

In the ephemeral garden, many plants are blooming like trillium, anemones, corydalis, and these hybrid Erythronium, or Dogs Tooth Violets, which look like yellow lilies here, but are named for the way that their bulb looks - like a dogs canine tooth.

Some plants from Songsparrow Nursery arrived on Friday afternoon.

I was in a meeting, Thursday, at work, when a discussion started before latecomers arrived, about what were we all going to be doing on the upcoming weekend - one which was promising the warmest temperatures of the year, 80 degrees and blue skies...then, one newly married colleague admitted that she was planting a lilac, which was arriving in the mail. I asked where she ordered it from, and then she shyly admitted that she ordered it from Spring Hill (wincing, when I visibly winced). Sometimes, people just know what the response will be.

But then the reality smacks me.....no matter how much of an evangelist I may be for quality and the best performing cultivars, most gardeners who garden on the weekends in North America, have an idea...oops, I mean an ideology that is informed by, oh, I don't know....their childhood vision of a garden' - and if cockleshells really existed as a plant, surely, they would buy it ( from Spring Hill most likely.

Now, honestly, before you all respond with a wheelbarrow full of emails about how terrific Spring Hill is, I am only responding from the perspective of a plant collector who is concerned more about plant quality, provenance, shipping methods, and cultivars. Those of us who know, know which mail-order nurseries ship the finest, most thoughtful and carefully packed, largest or well grown of the best varieties of species or genus that the world has to offer....and then, there are the rest. Of course, we all learn in the world of gardening, and it occurs over time. We learn that Blue Potatoes from Guerney's aren't really 'blue', but purple and they aren't the novelty they once we're two decades ago since now they are indeed trending worthy and even no longer called 'AMAZING BLUE POTATOES' or RAINBOW POTATOES', instead they are positioned as heirloom Peruvian purple potatoes and are available at Whole Foods at $5.00 a pound. All I ask is that you all move toward being more informed gardeners in addition to being emotionally motivated. So the next time you feel the inner stirring that tell you that you must have a Foxglove or a Bleeding Heart......make sure you do some homework, and at least, invest in the best quality variety, species, or finest new introduction or most proven vintage heirloom variety that you can find, and then order it from the expert nursery that either breeds that cultivar or knows the best growers. It might be true that price means quality, and it might not, but in my experience, mostly, 98 percent of the time, the higher the price today, the better the quality. Gripe if you will, but in an interconnected, internet-driven world, it is far more difficult for growers today to get away with high prices for crap than they used to be.
Song sparrow packs four to a box, or large gallon-sized planted are single. They arrive in perfect condition.

Plants from reputable nurseries such as Songsparrow arrive in impressive packaging.

OK, the truth is that many garden snobs are just that, gardening snobs....and although I'm OK with that idea, since I am one, and I hang out with many if not the greatest of garden snobs in the world. I also welcome the newbie. On one condition...that they promise to appreciate and listen, read and learn, that they take the time to GROW. What I don't have the patience for are those who treat plants and gardening as decoration only, disposable nature, or as furnishing. So if you spend your weekends preening your Scotts-perfect lawn, as if it was a golf course, or if your idea of horticultural success is lush, largest, most perfect like a Rapid-Gro Tomoato commercial and that your idea of a perfect flower garden is that of Daisys that bloom from early spring until fall, when you only need to move the red mulch or white stones, just enough to plant a bushel basket Mum---no wait....you hate mums.....your idea of the perfect flower garden consists of the simple palette of blue and pink. Blue Hydrangeas in clouds that mimic the color of the sky on a Cape Cod morning in September but the perfection park comes from your visions that below the clouds of blue grow white daisies, tall fragrant Casa Blanca lilies, drifts of Pink Lady's slippers, intermingled with violets, sweetpeas, poppies, how could I forget poppies, everblooming lily of the valley, bleeding hearts in white and pink, morning glories, foxgloves, Batchelor buttons, Big Pink Peonies, and the white ones, anything that blooms in Peach, tea roses, lilacs, topiaries, ahhhhhh.........

OK. I guess I'm a garden snob. But I can help you appreciate more. Really. Believe me, I am all for old fashioned gardens, in fact, I often despise the newer varieties opting for the vintage, but folks, do your homework. Since you are reading this, you can find on Google, the finest grower of Heirloom Iris, vintage peonies, lilacs that we're grown at Versailles. Just research first, then buy. As for old fashioned gardens? It's all relative, subjective and like anything that is emotionally fed, is personal. I do grow the vintage plants that remind me of my childhood, and most likely, you would find them unexciting, lame, or poor choices. Gardening is like cooking and eating. We all like comfort food, and yes, I have my plot of Bleeding hearts and I do collect vintage Iris varieties introduced at the time my house was built ( 1910), I do prefer the 19th century varieties of Lilacs, and plant them at the edge of the woods, I love old fashioned perennial gardens that look like a watercolor illustration from a children's book from 1902 ( hollyhocks, digitalis, Salpiglossis, Sweat peas, hmm I have a posting idea). Just grow what you love, but don't stop there.

Look, my point it, if you want a lilac, if 'feel' that a lilac will add something special to your life, that you want to see you, child, to have the experience you once had when you would steal some fragrant branches from an unsuspecting neighbors' bush to bring to your mother, a scent that today, instantly brings you back in time to your childhood, if you want to plant a bush that will be the shrub of Lilac in full bloom that your future daughter might pose in front of for their prom picture, then doesn't that experience of the future demand the respect of conscious selection? Doesn't that event deserve the 15 minutes of research on-line or with friends to find the finest lilac shrub and cultivar, delivered in a one-gallon pot, carefully rooted from an over-performing cultivar with a provenance of excellence? Or does it simply mean a direct mail brochure ' and a 4-inch pot or bare-root' deal'?. Sure, Spring Hill may be better now, and I intend to order some and see for myself, to test if things have changed, but I would look first for the best that I could afford. Now, granted, I could probably afford more than most, but even if I could not, I would do my homework for a good variety could be found even at a WalMart, you never know. But then, so could a bad cutting in a tube box.

So where do I start? Well, honestly I know little about lilacs, So, I just Googled Lilac nursery,and found the International Lilac Society.... this may direct me to some growers who they believe are worthy. Most plants have a society, either nationally or internationally, and under their sources guide, one will find reputable growers, for these are societies and rarely do they list growers who pay for advertising ( in their journals, they may have paid ad's so be cautious.). Now ( Michelle with 2 L's since you know who I am talking to) I found this place in Massachusetts just now, as I am writing thing....Windy Hill Farm ( I love these guys, what a day trip to thier rural nursery in the Berkshires)...their list says "686 Stockbridge Rd Great Barrington, MA 01230
413-298-3217 Fax 413-298-3167
Dennis Mareb offers an extensive selection of Syringa on its own rootstock, in field-grown 3 to 6 feet tall, 3 and 5-gallon containers. Located in Berkshire County, Western Massachusetts where cultivars, hybrids, species, and grafted standards are offered." Cool.

Then, the site lists another Massachusetts site, Syringa Plus, a "Wholesale nursery with retail trade of superior taxa on their own roots shipped bare root or in 3 1/2 inch pots to 2 gals. containers. Visitors welcome by appointment. Growing list available." Sure, barerot, but these must be impressive plants.

An Alpine rock from Wrightman Alpines arrives safe and sound, ready for planting. If you are interested in growing high elevation plants in troughs, and if you want the best luck with such plants as Saxifrages, Wrightman's carries these rocks, where three alpine plants are already established, rooted in a piece of Tufa rock, ready to be planted in your trough or alpine bed. Plants grow this way are very successful, and these are really worth the money.

They arrive in a box full of foam peanuts and fresh sphagnum, ready to be planted.

An established Alpine rock from Wrightman Alpines, two years old, set into planting in a trough by Betsy Knapp.

April 24, 2009

It's Arbor Day

The best way to support the Arbor Day trend, is to make a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation.

Today, in America, many are celebrating ARBOR DAY, a national observance that when I was a kid, seemed to be only 'observed' by elementary schools and the novel planting of a tiny spruce seedling or a Norway Maple seedling. Frankly, I think the masses didn't care as much for the Earth Day / Eco movement, leaving any celebrations to environmentalist Hippies, school children eager for a day off in spring, or to the handful of nature freaks.

Today, it's a different world. As the world finally awakens to the reality of global warming, terms related to environmentalism are everyday -the Kyoto effect, recycling, sustainablilty, if you are a brand or a major corporation and not using these temrs in your marketing plan or product, you are far behind the curve. Today it's becoming more than trendy to become a 'green' world. But, it's still trendy. Just yesterday, I was having a conversation with a friend who is a principle at a major design firm with clients like Coke, Starbucks, Target and Nike, about movements in design and business. We were discussing the strange evolution of "hot news' vs 'real news' Specifically, he said " Have you noticed how at quickly business trends have moved away from the 'green' movement towards one that exploits the Obama haters trend about blaming the worlds problems on "stimulus package"?" There is hardly a commercial on TV now, that doesn't spoof this, from furniture stores to monologues on ELLEN.

But the green movement continues, which is a good thing, for we want it to me main stream. I think it's OK that Miracle Gro is releasing an Organic fertilizer. That's a good thing. It's OK that Frito Lay is test marketing a biodigradable packaging that turns to compost in a few week for their SUNCHIPS brand. ANd, it's OK that everyone from VISA to POP TARTS is jumping of the eco band wagon. Sure, Volvo driving, Whole Foods shopping, Organic consumers are snubbing their noses at Big Business exploiting this trend, but.....I think this is one thing which is OK to exploit. Even though the reason for such support may only be to increase sales. Who benifits in the end? We all do.

Today, this weekend, take some time to educate your kids on the importance of Plants in our world. Plant a shrub or tree, learn more about the history of Arbor day ( check out this link which is interactive). Get dirty. And don't just do it on Arbor Day, do it for a birthday, an aniversary, Arbor Day is everyday, for it doesn't just celebrate life supporting trees, it celebrates life, itself.

April 19, 2009

A nice, busy, spring weekend

A seed-raised blue strain of Primula denticulata, the Drumstick Primrose, blooms in the woodland garden.

A gardeners life revolves around the seasons, and no season is more cherished or busy, as is spring. April in our New England Garden marks the official start of the outdoor gardening season, with endless chores, and endless celebrations and discoveries. This mid-weekend in April, marks the beginning of our Primrose season, with the earliest blooming species, those that hail from the highest elevations of the moist, Alpine snow-melt areas of the Alps,( with the first buds blooming in our alpine troughs of Primula marginata) or the Himalayas ( with the fast growing Drumstick Primroses, the Primula denticulata) which grows in moist alpine areas in China and Nepal. I really like this more natural planting, scattered around the opening in a woodland rather than planted in an mulched with orange mulch, or in a back plastic nursery pot....always thing natural, if in doubt, google the species and see if you can find an image on Flickr or at the a researcher site showing a population growing in the wild. And if you borrow an image, be certain to ask the Flickr member for permission to use the photo if you are bloggin if, for I was lazy or forgot on my last post, and accidentally used an image of a members stunning photo, and I am still feeling badly about not crediting the person. Thankfully, they were very understanding, and a simple apology sufficed. Still, I feel badly about it, and it snapped me back into a more conscious state of blogging.

Primula marginata is a true high alpine primrose, with mealy foliage and dentated foliage, it prefers growing in pure limestone rock or tufa rock. This specimen is growing in a tufa filled trough, where it is exposed to the coldest of temperatures all winter long. There are a few cultivars of Primula marginata available from the alpine plant nursery's, all are magnificent, but just remember that they prefer well drained, gravelly soil with extra lime.

Another seedling, first year blooming, of a white Primula denticulata strain. If growing primula species from seed seems daunting, with the stratification and keeping the pots refrigerated or places outside for the winter, blah, blah, blah, then do what I did with these,,,,by pre-treated seed, seed that has been pre-chilled to mimic a cold winter in the alps. Jelitto Seed carry's a number of pre-treated primula seed ( as well as other perennial species like Delphinium, Aquilegia, Tricyrtis) all are species that an then be sown in flats in the same way one sows and grows Marigolds, and within weeks, the seeds are up and one can end up with 200 pots of Primula denticulata, and a trash bag full of extras. Truly. At $8.00 to $12.00 per plant in the fancy nurseries, this more than an economical way of growing perennials, and many of these cannot be found at most nurseries. Most bloom in the second year after sowing.

Early ( and invasive) Colt's-foot, Tussilago farfara, blooms in a colony near the back of the yard at the edge of the woodland.

I happen to like colt's foot, both, it's earliest of flowers, as well as it micro, Petasites-like foliage, which emerges later and acts like a sturdy ground cover, a bit like small water lily leaves, floating like parasols over the soil, barely a foot high. Weeds don't seem to germinate under it which is nice. This plant was a 'gift', but accident, I am sure....someone gave us this running plant in a batch of wildflowers or primula perhaps. It's pretty, leafless stems of yellow aster like flowers really stand out in the bare, woodland colors of mid-April, but- beware, it is invasive, but we like it where it is, and since it can't escape, it behaves well since it has more invasive neighbors Giant Japanese Butterburr..( Petasites japanicus giganteum) all around it! Come on...what gardener doesn't have any invasive plants that they keep in check.

Our weekend started officially on Saturday morning, with our first outdoor meal of the year - breakfast on the deck which is getting rebuilt over the next two weeks, so this may be our last outdoor meal for a while.
Fergus ordering some Pulsatilla, or......is it salami and cheese snack?

The Agapanthus, ( Blue Lily of the Nile) which have not been divided for nearly 5 years, were removed from thier tubs, and cut and fork split into 5 or 6 divisions, each one getting a new tub to grow in. Here in New England, we cannot grow Agapanthus outdoors, except in the summer. Ours spend the winter in the glasshouse, and are brought outdoors each spring to spend the summer on the decks and terraces, where everyone can enjoy thier tall scapes or blue or white.

After reading an article on a recent plane trip about weaving white willow that is cut in the spring ( Salix alba in the March issue of GARDENS ILLUSTRATED), I decided to try it myself. I cut the plant to the ground, and used the whips to weave a protective barrier in a large pot planted with pansy's and red lettuce. So British!

I love this time of year in the greenhouse, and try to make time every weekend in the late afternoon to sit at the potting bench and either pot-up seedlings of various perennials, vegetables or annuals, or to repot the various collections. Currently, much is happening in the greenhouse, this Vireya 'St/ Valentines Day' is in full bloom, and quite pretty. This is a tropical Rhododendron native to Borneo, and many of the tropical Rhody's have amazing colors such as melon, orange, vermillion or yellow.

Since it seems we will be having alot of gardening visitors over the next 3 weeks ( with gardentours coming with the National Primrose Society, the National Rock garden Society, and with house guests like Juracek, I need to take a little time to clean the greenhouse and to at least, organize some of the pots so it looks like some plant geeks actually live here! Here is a stab at organizing some of the succulents and cacti ( or, more correctly, some Haworthia's. Pelargoniums and Gasteria's).

One can never have enough of the early flowering Rhododenron mucronulatum "Cornell Pink" which opens it's showy flowers before the foliage emerges, and at a time when you really need color in the garden.

Prostanthera rotundifolia, the australian mint shrub, makes wonderful potted plants for cold greenhouses. SInce this one is blooming rather late, and in a container, I moved it outdoors where it can enjoy the cooler temperatures since we are late in getting the shade cloth up onto the greenhouse given Joes broken leg. As with many of the other zone 9 or zone 10 marginal shrubs that we keep wintered over in the greenhouse, most are brought outdoors in April since they can take a bit of frost, or temperatures above 25 degrees F.. This Australian mint bloom incredibly in March and April, and now, the honey bees can enjoy it too. It's interesting how the color appears more natural outdoors, and not dissimilar in relation with the early Rhododenrons also blooming in the garden.

Ordinary? Sure.......that's OK. The term 'it's too ordinary'is a subjective statement we plant snobs often use to dismiss something we reall wish we had in our garden, all along. I love both ordinary and extra ordinary, especially when combined. The Magnolias stellata forms are popping into bloom. Since the sun was lighting this one just perfectly, so I could not resist shooting it.

Fritillaria persica starting to bloom in the alpine garden.

The fast-draining, gravelly soil of the raised rock wall alpine garden, which runs along the length of the foundation of the greenhouse,is favored by many or the larger Fritillaria species, particularly those that dislike sitting in water, which might include all Frits, a genus that prefers hot, dry summers that they experience in the wilds of the Sierra's or in Iran and Iraq, where the larger species come from ( i.e. persica). Location is everything for success with Frits, fast-drainage, with early spring moisture and summer dryness is preferred. This Fritillaria is not quite as commonly seen in gardens as the more flamboyant Fritillaria imperialis, but it is just as easy to find, so it is not rare. I think people are put off by the photos in the Dutch bulb catalogs, since it often appear next to the more flamboyant relatives, but I beleive that once seen in the garden, it's mroe natural color blends in better. Structurally, from a visual perspective, it is supreme, and it is fun to watch the stems emerge and grow quickly to nearly 3 feet tall, before it opens it's deep chocolate-violet bells, or white, since I think I mixed in a white form by accident. These bulbs were on sale at a Boston nursery one rainy day in November, so I purchased a dozen. They are a bit pricey, and I think another reason one doesn't see this often in home gardens, is the $9 or $10 per bulb cost. And certainly, a $100 investment in one bulb planting may seem extreme, but they are best planted this way. Still, quite common enough that every Dutch bulb catalog would carry it, the rule is, plant as many an you can afford, for en-masse it looks even better ( like most bulbs). Imagine a grouping of 50 bulbs, or 100.....as one would find them in the wild. When planting bulbs, image the wild population, scattered around a stream bed, or rocky crevice.

Next week, I need to pot-up the Dahlia tubers which spent the winter in sand in the greehouse. I had better get enough pots, since many of these massive roots need to be divided. If you look closely, you can see the new shoots begining to grow. There is no stopping summer from coming!

April 12, 2009

First Annual Muddy Boot Awards. The Top Ten Must-Have Plants

1.PARDANCANDA ‘Heart of Darkness’ or ‘Bountiful Blush

A plant that has been on my wish list for two years now is these extraordinary Pardancanda varieties available from Joe Pye Weed Gardens in Carlisle, Massachusetts. These particular varieties are extraordinary and only available from Joe Pye Weed for now, since they received them from another local Nurseryman, Daryl Probst (of Epimedium fame), who is shifting his focus from Epimediums to breeding programs of other ignored genera.On my last visit to his Nursery, he showed me amazing Asters and Lobelia. Joe Pie Weed owners Jan Sacks and Marty Schaefer are friends with Daryl, and have introduced these amazing Pardancanda’s which are not only hardy to Zone 5, but that form plants that can create clouds of over 300 flowers. Go to their website and check them out.Some interesting notes on Pardancandas, they now have been reclassified as Iris. According to the Joe Pye Weed website, “The changes we have been expecting in the taxonomy of Pardancandas have been made – they are now 100% irises! The new
name is Iris x norrisii. These are hybrids between Iris dichotoma (formerly
Pardanthopsis dichotoma or The Vesper Iris) and Iris domestica(formerly
Belamcanda chinensis or The Blackberry Lily)”. As for culture, they say: “These plants are quite different in appearance from most irises. Nevertheless, they have rhizomes and leaf fans and flowers in three parts. They like lots of sun, resent wet soil, and need regular dividing. They are drought tolerant and do not mind the extreme heat of the south.
Their growing needs are very similar to bearded irises. “ The flowers are small, open for only one day, and they are produced in profusion. The tall strong stalks can have as many as 45 spathes (bud placements), with 6 to 10 buds in each of these. Many of these hybrids can display over 300 flowers at once.


A HORSETAIL? Oh yeah, baby. Thanks to botanist Chad Husby of Florida International University, and his discovery in Chile, and the well known Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina, we all can have this beast in our garden. Go Jurassic Park! This might be best as a container plant for me, but come on…..how can any gardener resist a ten-foot tall giant horsetail? Well, thanks to Chad, Plant Delights Nursery (perhaps my favorite nursery for plant quality, size and service), are able to offer the true giant Equisetum giganteum for the first time.

Photo courtesy of Chad Husby ©2009
Chad Husby with a colony of Equisetum giganteum
(valley of the Río Lluta, northern Chile, January 2006)

According to them “This collection of the rare fern relative hails from El Tabacal in Argentina's northern province of Salta, where it forms large stands of 10'+ tall prehistoric-looking stalks. Imagine a giant green stake being plugged into an electrical outlet and you get the idea. Equisetum giganteum runs...no, it gallops, so do not plant it in the ground in warm climates. In containers, seal the drainage holes if escaping into the ground is possible. E. giganteum is superb in a large container or submerged in a solid bottom ornamental pond. Of several accessions trialed, this is the only one that survived 15 degrees F in the ground”Plant Delights is currently sold out, but reportedly will have more plants available soon. (I ordered mine in January, and it arrived this week (I had to keep it as secret as I could!).


I’ve wanted an Edgeworthia for years now, ever since seeing one in full bloom in Tokyo during a February trip there. This Zone 8 Shrub would need to be a potted cold greenhouse shrub for me, but that’s OK. White forms of E. papyrifera can be found at a couple of nurseries on line, but this cultivar is even rarer, because it is a rarer red form. It is currently sold out (as many of these must-have plants are), but if they were easy to obtain, they wouldn’t be very ‘must-have’, now, would they?
Very limited, this plant is always in demand but is so tricky to propagate, so very few nurseries will make the effort. The red (tomato soup) flowers appear in clusters just like the yellow flowering E. papyrifera in early spring. Gossler Farms have found E. p. 'Red Dragon' is more tender than E. papyrifera. They grow their 4'x4' plant in morning sun in a protected place next to their house. They are only offering one per customer.
1 gal. is $45.00

4.TREE PEOPNY ‘Baron Thyssen Bornemisza’

Tree Peony’s are desirable enough, and anyone perusing the Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery site will undoubtedly not leave without ordering at least one. But at $225.00, this gem might be a little costly, although it has another jewel cross from the species form P. rockii, ‘Joseph Rock’, and bit more affordable at $140., they are still both on my wish list. But when I see these show up in slide presentations by some of the worlds’ most noteworthy horticulturists, as their favorite plants ( like those by John Lonsdale), then I know I too must have one, for these guys know. I’ve seed ‘Joseph Rock’, in October, and not in bloom, and I still wanted it, it virtually jumped out visually from the garden. All tree peony’s are nice, and any choice tree Peonies would cost one at least $75.00 US, but there is a good reason – they are extraordinary, and very few nurseries grow them, especially the best ones.
Tree Peony 'JOSEPH ROCK',a 'steal' at $140.00..but a peony 6 feet tall and 6 feet high? What would your neighbors say?In recent years, various species have been introduced, and most are very good, but particularly the Chinese species, Paeonia suffruticossa subsp. rockii, ( or just P. rockii), named after famed plant explorer Sir Joseph Rock who first collected the plant although some say it was discovered in 1910 by Reginald Farrer, this introduction is even more extraordinary than the pure species form, which alone, can reach an amazing size of 7 feet tall and 7 feet wide in the UK. Today, there are many seed grown sources for the true species or P. rockii, but these newer crosses are even better, for these two have P. rockii in their blood, but are perhaps the two most ‘must-have’ plants on any of the worlds top ten horticulturists list. They just don’t tell you. Other Tree Peony's that are extraordinary are available at Klehm's. Buy one a year and build a collection. I should start one, I know....but only when I win the lottery!


At $50.00 for one lily bulb, you may think I am crazy. but this is one of a handful of rare martagon lilies currently available for fall shipping from the Lily Nook. Martagons are a specie lily one rarely sees anymore, except in Europe. It's foliage is one of the plants best attributes, with lovely whorls that are like parasols, along the stem. I am a sucker for any lily that has a pendant flower, and even more of a sucker for any L. martagon cultivar beyond the more common but still hard to find old classic, Mrs. R.O. Backhouse. An martagon is nice, and the get better with age if sited well. This beauty is something that I really want, since I have never seen it offered before.


One can certainly start one of these by themselves, but there are some benefits in getting one pretrained. I’ve been wanting a tree wisteria for years now, in fact, ever since I worked as a gardener at a local small private estate while in high school in the 1970’s. I had forgotten about the Stoddards 4 established 'tree Wisterias, that bloomed every May witht heir long, white, orange blosom scented panicles descending to the ground like a waterfall. The four massive plants required a few minutes of training with secateurs all summer, as we trimmed back the runners and long vines that make Wisteria both lovely and despised by many. Still, a mature 'tree wisteria' is an amazing site, and the plant makes a nice statement even when not in bloom, and surprisingly interesting with its muscular, angular branches in the winter.Not actually a tree, these are vines trained into a standard, and the only reason I recommend White Flower Farm is that I have seen these plants there, and they are well trained, often in bud (which is always an issue) and most of the work is done for you. Besides, you are assured that you are getting a truly floriferous variety. Branches, bark, Buds, flowers, form, sillohette, a pre-trained Wisteria in either blue or white from White Flower Farm makes a strong statement as a stand-alone specimen shrub, or added to a border.I have not decided yet if I will plant mine in a large tub, (as they do at WWF) or in the ground near my new fence. If I could afford two, then this would be easy, but again, at $150. Per plant, this is a bit of an investment. I do remember a few years ago visiting White Flower Farm on their opening day in April, during a freak snow storm, and they had just pulled out of their greenhouse, an impressive trained tree wisteria in tight bud, growing in a four foot wide terra rosa pot (tub). I wanted it so bad; it has remained in my mind for at least 20 years now. (I’m SO old!). (Well, I was only 12 at the time!) ( RIGHT!). OK……I turned 50 this year, and I am treating my self to a trained Tree Wisteria, damn it!

from Joe Pye Weed Garden

There are many iris species and varieties, and I would imagine that most of you think of the giant, floppy German Bearded Iris when you think of Iris. Siberian Iris are more growable, in fact, they are rather indestructible, but not only are they hard to find, which I could never figure out, the few varieties that are available are virtually ancient, and rather unimpressively purple or blue.These are the iris that are always shared at plant exchanges, (the really old varieties or species), but a few of those gardeners ‘in the know’ know that there are other options.I will change your life. Order any of the extraordinary Siberian’s from Joe Pye Weed, and you will not only have cars stopping, you will be able to share divisions with your friends,(if you want to!). Jan and Marty first started their garden after taking over a Siberian iris breeders home garden, so these are not only plants with provenance, they are some of, if not, the best varieties available, and the only source since they are so small.With colors that range from peach, to beige ( my favs), violets, pinks, yellows, it is so hard to recommend any one. I prefer tall ones, taller than 40 inches like Tall Dark and Handsome, or brown ones like So Van Gogh and Humors of Whiskey. But how can one decide? Crème Caramel, Hot Sketch, Mister Peacock and June to Remember…all are arriving in my garden this year, and these plants, unlike the more fussy German Bearded Iris, will most likely out live me. My Dad is 96, and his fathers Siberians are still growing here!

Ilex serrata 'Hatsuyuki'

I’m a sucker for yellow-berried Holly’s but white berried cultivars are only better, much better. Thanks to Barry Yingers incredible nursery, Asiatica Nursery, now we all can have one. I could have completed this entire top ten list from the Asiatica catalog, but in an effort to be more diverse, I have resisted.
Ilex serrata is the Asian counterpart of our native Ilex verticillata, a deciduous shrubby holly grown for its beautiful fruit in autumn. This variety is the only white-fruited deciduous holly. The Asian species is more finely textured, with smaller berries, and generally not as big as our native species, growing to about 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. This old and rare Japanese variety has small but abundant creamy white fruit that are about 3/16 inch in diameter. It likes rich well-drained soil in sun or light shade, not too dry. These are 15"+ tall plants. USDA Zones 5 to 8.

Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate'

Asiatica has done it again, with this amazing chocolate colored Mimosa tree. Barry says, “This patented Japanese selection was made by Dr. Masato Yokoi. I saw the original plant in his garden years ago, and received a plant from the first round of propagation. Its lacy purple foliage is unique among hardy trees and shrubs. It grows very quickly to make a small tree with a broad crown, or it can be cut back in the spring to make a bushy multi-stemmed color accent in the perennial border.” It has thrived in USDA Zone 6. It prefers a sunny location and is very tolerant of poor, dry soil. In full sun the leaves will be deep purple, contrasting with the pink and white flowers.


I’ve been searching for the Agapanthus species, A inapertus for a long time. This species has pendant flowers that hang straight down. I’ve tried growing some from wild collected seed, but no luck. Apparently someone has made a selection and has micro propagated it since a handful of nurseries are carrying it this year. This named form is one of the best, and I am encouraged by the fact that it is shipped in a 2-gallon container, since other suppliers have this selection either in 1-quart pots, or bareroot.This selection of A. inapertus has deep blue pendulous flowers in midsummer. This plant was named and introduced by the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in South Africa. We don't know the hardiness yet but this plant would make an excellent container plant or plant for the milder garden.
1 gal. $14.00 from Gossler Farms. If you have never ordered from Gossler, you must….if only to see the packing crate. With full sized root balls, slings of rope that hold plants in place and an impressive grid of wood stakes to keep the boxes from collapsing. No one ships better plants in a better method than Gossler.