June 30, 2015


It's just about lily season around here, and with this amazing lack of lily beetle, the lilies are looking fine, with no damaged foliage or buds, tall, healthy stems and a high quantity of buds - it should be another epic year for the true lilies. These pink beauties are my mystery lilies - I bought them on sale ( yes, I do that too, don't you?). They were in unmarked bags at a nursery near Boston, already all stretched out as they started to grow a few months early indoors. Last year I had them in a container, but last autumn, I transplanted them into the garden in front of the greenhouse.

 In just one year, they have divided, even producing a few offsets which had single flowers on them. They are down facing lilies, which are a particular favorite, but I am uncertain whether they are Oriental lilies or a cross ( I am guessing that they are a cross between a trumpet and an Oriental, commonly known as Orienpet's.). They lack any fragrance, which is ashamed, but other than that, they are rather perfect, even the color, which is a shade of pink that my friend Jess calls 'Meat' ( maybe imported Ham?) actually looks nice in the garden, but it is usually a color I never choose when picking out lily bulbs in the autumn.



It may surprise you that with many things, I am not as fancy as you may think - for example, I love, love love Iceberg lettuce ( um…really) and I love, love, love Carnations (um... really). I know, right? So this year I am trying to grow some of the old fashioned annual selections, most are old fashioned,, vintage selections once popular in the late 1800's/ The strain 'Chabaud Giants' in particular is one which I have wanted to grow since I was a kid ( um….really), but they always just seemed fussy, and certainly not something one would be able to buy at a nursery - these must be sown from seed, and yes, they can be particular. A soil with a high pH ( 6.5 or higher) is necessary as with most dianthus, so horticultural powdered lime must be added to the bed liberally. For some reason, the seed I obtained this year germinated nicely, I think I am having luck because I sowed the seed later in spring ( April 15), while in the past, I started seeds too early, and they stretched out in the heat of the greenhouse - these are cool growers, and sown outdoors in early spring, they grew nicely.

A new gate was installed this weekend ( I even painted it late at night, before a party we hosted on Saturday).

Joe built a new gate this week ( Lydia, our female Irish Terrier tore the other one apart over some baby bunnies - see above). I am so happy that I found some vertical and horizontal wooded lathe board at Home Depot - something I've been searching for, for about 2 decades. This is a low cost solution for a nice looking fence, especially when painted a nice dark slate color, as above. The plastic or vinyl lathe is horrid ( and white), so paint does not hold well. We bought 20 panels, with the ambitious hope of installing a new fence along the dog yard by the end of summer.

The espaliered apples have set a nice crop of fruit this year. No sign of rust yet, which is a good sign. I am holding off on the summer pruning until later in July.

The citron 'Etrog' have set their fruit, probably with some help from the honey bees. These citron live in big, clay pots which spend the winter in the greenhouse. It's hard to imagine that this tiny, baby fruit will grow to be nearly a foot long.

The Meyer Lemons are loaded with flowers. I will have to thin some of the fruit out, so that there won't be too much per branch, but that's OK. It promises an excellent winter in the greenhouse for fresh lemons.

Other lilies are blooming now too, such as these very old Lilium regale, so, so fragrant - the porch door needs to be closed late at night, just to keep the intoxicating fragrance isolated from the kitchen.

Containers are starting to take off, with all of the rain and warmth. Well, it's been cool around here, so maybe it's just the rain! The jagged saw-like foliage of this Melianthus major, which survived our cold winter in the greenhouse - dormant underground in its pot, are emerging quickly and really beginning to tower over the other containers.

Daphne berries are poisonous, so I carefully fence off shrubs, such as this Daphne mezereum 'alba' which has tempting yellow berries ( the pink flowered form has red berries). These will soon drop, and germinate next spring near the base of the plant - a curious parenting trick, which allows me to dig and transplant dozens of this winter blooming shrub for other places around the garden every year.

In the vegetable garden, garlic scales have been removed from the heirloom garlic plants, to not only allow the plants to focus on forming larger bulbs, but they will make great pickles in the kitchen.

The Cuphea viscosissima is doing so well ( finally! After three tries, I think I am finally able to grow some of this fine, purple flowered annual). I am not sure if I should pinch it or not, so I am pinching half of the plants. These are growing near our new gravel walk, so I really want well branched plants, so that they are less likely to tumble into the walk.

I ordered this raised bed from Gardener's Supply in Vermont ( they are not a sponsor - this is purely my own venture - so free shout out to them!). I love the quality. Cedar, deep and ten feet long ( or eight, not sure now!). Still, it's massive, and the peppers seem to love it. Hey, I'm in my 50's now, and just starting to think about bending over less and less! I want more of these!

In a couple of weeks, most of the garden lilies will be in bloom. This yellow, out-facing  Asiatic is just about ready to pop open. Summer is really here - -really. I think any chance of snow is nearly over!

June 29, 2015


Our 20 year old Stewartia pseudocamellia  which oddly skipped blooming entirely last year, (but which has bloomed every year since I planted it), is, for some strange reason,  loaded with flowers. Cars are stopping to ask us about this tree which seems so out of place in the June garden.

With it's handsome, smooth muscular bark (I  know, sounds kinky, but the next time you see the tan and beige bark on a mature Stewartia - just try to find a better way to describe it). attractive buds and branching in the winter, spectacular fall foliage and then this - - clouds of white camellia-like blossoms in early summer, and one can see why the Stewartia tree is so treasured ( and yet, still rarely seen in most gardens).

I do need to prune some branches away from the service gate so that the gas man can get to the greenhouse, but that can wait, especially when it looks this nice.

A not-so-pretty view of the deck, but it does show you how big our tree has grown. Typcially, the Stewartia species are smaller trees - 35 feet max but ours is already that tall. Slow growing ( I planted this tree when I was 29 years old), and now I am appreciating it um…a couple of decades later.

I look forward to the very camellia-like blossoms every June and July, and why not, they look exactly like the big white Higo camellias we have in the greenhouse, but these come in clouds, and outdoors.

With seven species available in North America, the most commonly grown species is this one - S. pseudo camellia, hardy to USDA Zone 5, but check with the other species, as some are more tender, only hardly to USDA Zone 7 or so.
 I would push the zones a bit, as I told some friends of mine from Vermont this weekend, who were craving getting a tree for their Zone 4 garden. Might be worth trying, as I could say that mine experienced Zone 4 conditions in some winters, as we have had many winters which dipped into the -0º F down to -10º F so if you are a hearty soul, look for a micro climate ( our's is planted near the house away from the wind).

If there is one downside ( maybe two) they are that the blossoms drop in abundance, and need to be raked up every evening. I do like the sound of them tumbling down out of the tree just as the evening arrives, perhaps temperature changes or light levels signal the drop. The second negative might be the seed pods which drop later in the summer - very sharp, and can stab a bare foot ( Hey, I know, since I 've stepped on many!). Besides that, the tree is virtually flawless. Why not look for one at your local nursery?

June 24, 2015


Illustrator Jen Corace visited us yesterday, and some of our ducklings wanted to wear trucker hats - but why, you ask?

We can always count on our good friend designer Jess Rosenkranz to pop over with some silly reason, maybe she needs more leaves to press so that she can assemble more dried terrarium paintings (complete with miniature layered buffalos - RISD grads you know!), or to make wedding flowers as we did this past Saturday for her brothers wedding, and this evening, when Jess stopped by for homemade pizza with her friend and fellow illustrator Jen Corace.

Ducklings, you know - they just attract creative people.

Jess knew that Jen would not freak out with the mess around here, she has a garden, loves dogs and as an artist, would surely find things around our house quirky and interesting. Jen Corace's latest book project was illustrating TELEPHONE (Chronicle Books)  a and fellow RISD grad) she also is getting a lot of recognition for a children's book that she illustrated for author Mac Barnett, which is getting tons of praise by both the press and critics (A BuzzfFed Best Picture Book of 2014, and many more praises).

All sorts of sweet birds tell the story (a play off of the popular parlor game - telephone, where one passes along a secret phrase to the next person). In this story, a duck wears a trucker hat.

So naturally, Jess made trucker hats for our ducks to wear, if only for a few seconds. We sent her home with a car load of plants for being such a good sport. As for the ducklings? The got an extra hour in the pool on this gorgeous evening in June - why not, the fireflies are out, and summer vacation has begun.

Jen Corace discovered that some of the ducklings actually liked wearing the paper trucker hats.