May 22, 2016

The Cure for Epimedium Deficit Disorder - Garden Vision Epimediums

Let me start with this statement - one will never truly appreciate the presence of an epidemium in the garden unless one plants one in the ground and waits 3 years. There are reason why we have passed them over at nurseries or in catalogs, either the flowers are oddly spider like, or the potted specimens looks less-than-exciting, but see one established in a garden, and suddenly they move to the top of ones must-have list. Few see specimens in our garden without asking "wow, what is that?". 

May 17, 2016

Time for a Rototiller Smackdown

Time for a new garden! So, an excuse for a Rototiller smack-down. Troy bilt's in the shed emerged for a one-on-one race to see who could tackle our 'back 40' better, faster and deeper. Dahlias and cucumbers await in the greenhouse!

Nope - NOT a paid or even a sponsored post.  We simple needed a new garden, and with 4 rototillers in our shed, (one not working), why not haul em out and use them to create a new garden in practically virgin soil, or 'virgin' at least for the past few decades. With little time nor energy to hand dig a thousand square feet or two, the sometimes necessary rototiller (or tiller) was needed.

With at least 200 dahlia tubers started in 6 inch pots in the greenhouse, and even more tomatoes this year, plus plans for eight or so cucumber varieties, we needed the extra room.  Mostly, this space will be planted with dahlias, as we helped start a new dahlia society (the New England Dahlia Society - join if you can! There is a meeting this Sunday, and we'll be hosting our first show in September at Tower Hill Botanic Garden).

Joe has been eager to find a spot for his AA (or dinner plate) dahlias, and I will need more room for cucumbers and tomatoes (not to mention some of my dahlias). So we decided to regenerate part of our 'back 40', a piece of land way back in our back yard where my parents used to grow squash, potatoes and beans in the 1980's, and before that, red raspberries and celery. It's been neglected for about 20 years now, so the rototillers had to be called in (or dusted off from the shed). Time for a road rally.

The Gardener's Full Plate Season

I presume that most of us suffer the same plight  during these spring days - that of little time, and lots of chores. Once one factors in the obligatory plant sales, treks to the garden center and garden tours - the idea of spreading mulch or repotting dahlias can get pushed out to another weekend. If you are anything like me, returning home from a plant sale often means that even more plants arrive - why is it that we often forget the entire second part of the process? That each of these plants needs to be planted, the containers washed and repurposed or recycled? Each plant well watered and tended to.

But, really, I 'get' it - you can't risk ignoring that very special rare salvia species or afford the slightest delay in grabbing that giant cassia or spikey solanum just discovered at the nursery (unless we really want to place another order with Annies Annuals and wait...). In some way, this is a sport - not unlike a mobile game, complete with the thrill of the hunt and the delight of 'scoring' high when the cart is full of treasures (sometimes even if the perfect container has yet to be claimed).

May 12, 2016

This Weekend's 'Trade Secrets' Event is the Highlight of This Gardeners Year

Here is a view of that incredible Davidia involucrata ' Vilmoriniana' , along with D. involucrata 'Sonoma', one of the newer selections of Davidia that bloom at a smaller size,  at the Broken Arrow Nursery booth. 

Trade Secrets may indeed be the nexus of design talents and horticultural expertise, a place where beauty, taste and appreciation of everything which is rare or valued (and vaguely garden-related)  from a Louis the XVI cast bronze tub for a citron tree to an ancient Tibetan wooden thing-a ma-jig that would be just perfect for that fresh-from-the-conservatory super-rare Grammatophyllum speciosum that your gardener has been slaving over all winter.

Imagine Elle Decor, Veranda, Town & Country and Architectural Digest combined with Horticulture Magazine (circa 1989), The Journal of the North American Rock Garden Society, Hortus, Pacific Horticulture and the fine blogs of Rochelle Greayer, Margaret Roach's and yeah - this dude (no, wait, we'll all be there along with Martha Stewart and her entourage - plus writers like Tovah Martin whom I always see here - - put it this way - if a tornado hits Sharon CT this Saturday, your gardening and creative life could suddenly significantly less inspired.

Maybe this is the year you take on Trade Secrets.

If you haven't heard by now, Trade Secrets ( at Lion Rock Farm in Sharon, CT) is considered by many to be the  most-coveted events to attend for both lovers of rare plants for those who covet good taste and design (come on -good causes aside,  that's kind-of what we are all about, right?).

This year, both Joe and I will be attending, and I'll be covering it, but unfortunately given that there are two of us, we won't be able to justify the $120 ticket to get into the even early in the morning, not that it isn't worth it - you must go early, if you want to get the best of the best (there is plenty there later, though! I mean, it's a two day event.). This also means that once again, I won't be able to afford covering the garden tours as well - maybe next year.

Trade Secrets attracts not only some of the most select nurseries and antique dealers who are invited to show and sell their greatest horticulturally related treasures, the gate receipts  also go to a very good cause.  This event, which began at Interior designer Bunny Williams estate many years earlier as a back-yard fundraiser for Woman's Support Services in Litchfield, county CT, has now grown into this amazing two day event held on what usually is a gorgeous weekend in mid May.

Imagine this: A nineteenth century farm on a hilltop in western Connecticut, bluebirds, meadowlarks, horses, apple blossoms, orioles, carven stone foxes, lovely ladies and handsome men (ahem), all come together It's Brimfield-meets- Chelsea Flower Show, and in many ways, this singular event has become the Queen's Garden Party (if the Queen was Bunny Williams, I suppose). Or is it Martha? We'll just let those to figure that out~!

So please, do go, if you can -  ( this Sat, May 14 and Sun May 15) for more important than anything else, this  fundraiser for Woman's Support Services, (an organization which offers crisis intervention, counseling and education plus legal, medical. and housing assistance for women and families in Western CT) offers a double whammy for your contribution. Great help where it is desperately needed, and you get extraordinary plants, and antique that will make you swoon since you probably won't be able to afford much for them. But hey - the ideas are free! Bring your camera.

Lion Rock Farm is a functioning farm in Sharon, CT, they host the event each year on their beautiful property.

Given the means, do donate as well and go for the early bird fee though - I really do highly recommend it, if you want to make the biggest impact for the organization, and to get the best chance of snagging that rare Podophyllum delayvii before Martha gets them all, (Just saying'. Not that that has ever happened to me!).

Succulents planted as a wall hanging. Best use of a bed spring yet!

I'll be looking for my favorite vendors here, as well, and they are some of the best in the industry. I mean, where else can you buy an original Guy Wolff pot, and talk to him, as well (such a nice guy!) - Snug Harber Farm perhaps, Harvey Wightman Alpines (as in the last post), Karen Perkins and her Epimedium ( if I was buying the $120 ticket to park in the field this year I would bring my yellow wagon again, but this year, it will just be what  I can carry so that I won't have to use the runners and so that I can sneak out fast) So I may not be filling the truck with trees and shrubs from Broken Arrow and handmade pottery from Guy Wolff - well perhaps, only a few.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone! Now get out into your garden~

If you see me, definitely do say 'hi", I love chatting with readers (and I usually meet many at this great event which sometimes, turns into more of a social event than anything else for me!). The weather looks decent too ( sunny, with a slight chance of rain late in the day, and Sunday looks great too! Happy hunting!

May 10, 2016

How To Make A Real Alpine Trough Garden

As you grow with plants, sooner or later you will confront - -  the trough garden. Stone, hypertufa or slate sinks or troughs filled with exquisite alpines. Buns, mats and hummocks so tight that ever Janet Jackson would be jealous.

Often misunderstood, or maligned because they can sometimes look 'less-than-pretty' or even awkward (in a 1970's concrete-planter-sort-of-way), let me assure you, the trough garden has some serious historical heft to it.  Their roots go back to an era where the greatest of British plant explorers (Farrer)  who collected these rare plants during the Victorian era triggered a craze in Europe which continues today to a lesser extent - a deep admiration and appreciation for high elevation alpines.

But, should you care?

Yeah. You should, but who am I to say?

May 3, 2016

Rarely Seen Blooms at the Annual Primrose Show Draws Crowds

Green with envy yet? Meet 'Sword' a rare double exhibition auricula primrose once cherished during Victorian England, some were on display at the New England Primula Society's annual exhibition last weekend.

As soon as one enters the grand hallways at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden for the annual New England Primula Society exhibition, one can see why the Victorians created specialized theaters just for exhibiting these precious spring blooms. This past weekend's annual Primrose Show put on by the New England chapter of the American Primrose Society presented to the viewing public, many rarely seen flowers - ranging from the cold-hardy alpine species which thrive in northern gardens to the precious and rare auricula primroses, which require alpine house conditions where they can develop their white farina rings and spectacularly unrealistic blooms.