Reviewing 2015 Projects and Plants, Challenges and Results

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I have to give a shout out for the Baileyi linden. It is a cordata. It is also known as a 'Shamrock' linden. I didn't know this when I chose one to replace the Green Mountain Sugar maple that y community charged me $590 to plant improperly, and in JULY, so it died. It was a blessing in disguise since the tree would have eventually towered over our quarter acre lot. After that I never let my community plant anything in my yard. I went up to Milaegers in Racine and found a beautiful stand of these trees. I would also take my Dirr book on hardy trees and shrubs with me when ever I was looking for plants.

What I did not know is that this linden was developed to be resistant to japanese beetle damage. Out neighbors lindens almost died from defoliation while ours thrived with damage so minimal you could just barely detect it. Bigger than a littleleaf (I also added one of those), it grows 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. If you like you can easily limb it up at the bottom but I did not do this because it was a wonderful privacy tree.

In the first picture, in 2006, look toward the back and you will see it perhaps a year after planting. We would buy our trees when they were 50% off in July and have Mileagers "hold" them until September or October hand have them bring them down and plant them. That way they would take care of them, and we would not be planting a tree in the high heat of summer.The cost of traveling about 45 miles to plant them would gross the cost back up, but they were planted beautifully, guaranteed, and my community had a 50% back to you program for up to $400, so we always bought $400 trees and had them planted, so we got $200 back. Bingo! 3 inch caliper tree for $200.

In the second picture, July, 2008.

In the 3rd picture, spring of 2009.

In the fourth picture, summer of 2009. There is a sidewalk behind that tree, and people would gawk at us. The purpose of the arbor and the tree was to give us our privacy back. Honestly, you could be NAKED in my yard and unseen!

2011 in the last picture. You might want to limb it up, but what a tree! We sold the house later that year. I miss that wonderful tree.

If I could grow any tree again it would be this one. And right behind it, a katsura. These two trees and the acer griseum are my all time favorites.

I could not recommend a better tree. It is more, well, graceful and elegant that a basswood, of which my community had tons. I have never seen this tree in another yard, and I think it is because people are wary of japanese beetle damage. So it also has the benefit of being uncommon (how I love the uncommon!)

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Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

No, but I've looked at maps that show they are progressing east from the midwest into Western Mass. For reasons unknown to me-- too much dryness, shade, old age or disease, the older ones look peaked. Twenty years ago the tree guy predicted they would be dead in 15 years from yellow ash disease, but they rallied. There aren't many rocks in the narrow berm that is 20 feet away because of worry about pressure on the roots. The totally undisturbed trees don't look any better. My plan is to call the arborist for Jan or Feb to trim and take out two of the neighbor's Norway maples when his prices are a little lower. We have a log splitter to make firewood but it is a lot of work for the men in the family.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

Crosspost. Donna, your gardens and your trees are stunning! The lindens are lovely indeed and large and full already. (I work on a Linden street that has not one growing there now). I also love your white archway or trellis with the vibrant roses and how you've used grasses.

And yes, it is good to remember that Dirr's Hardy Trees of North America, or the Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs, for a larger book, are the go-to sources about trees, for sure.

In this locality we have several good nurseries. Weston's nursery has planted a hybrid maple for me.

South Hamilton, MA

There are lindens in the area. We have one down in our woods. the woods were not 'planted' mostly natural growth.

Thomaston, CT

I agree, Donna...your yard is lovely....I like the looks of that Linden....very graceful......It's something for me to consider.....I also like some of the maple hybrids.....I guess the final decision will be my son's since he will plant & maintain it.....also being a landscape architect, he's more knowledgable about trees than I am.....

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Th only caveat with maple hybrids is the seeding. Some do it very little - my acer griseum only lightly, but some have you pulling seedlings out of the ground all season. But I do think those are the older ones. There are so many gorgeous maple hybrids. Such wonderful trees. It's great that your son is a landscape architect. He can give you good and knowledgeable advice, and better yet, he is in your corner!

Thomaston, CT

True.....Garret's a good guy, but he has 5 acres of his own to care for, plus the hundred acres his FIL has next door, along with the 5,000 blueberry bushes that have to be pruned......hopefully, my tree project will get done before too long......

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Looking around outside I see that several roses are still blooming - The Dark Lady, Morden Blush, Kathleen Harrop and Marie Pavie. I have had rose Charles de Mills chewed by enthusiastic rabbits, so I just built up compost on the bottom, put in some miniature daffs, and put hardware cloth around the plant - I'm a belt and suspenders kind of gal. Also, if it gets nipped, as a once bloomer, that's it for the season.

I am going to do the same with my oakleaf hydrangeas, of which I have three. They have been slow to develop (true, I purchased five gallon ones before, so I must be patient). And the squirrels seem to like to dig at their bases.But I am pleased to find that Endless Summer finally bloomed after three years.

Almost all of my tender salvias are still blooming, since they are zone six. I noticed that they are forming seedlings, so I am not going to deadhead them. I have actually had salvia farinacea make it through the winter to bloom again, so I am going to leave all of my salvias and see what happens.

I have red peppers that are now producing, so every night I put them in the garage, and in the morning put them back in the sun

The biggest problem I am having is that I took in a client's very large hibiscus plants (2) and whireflies appeared. So I treated them with acephate, which is a systemic, which I am going to rotate with insecticidal soap and Neem Oil - each one every seven days. If it doesn't work in about a month, I'm going to pitch them. I found acephate years ago when thrips were chewing at my light colored peonies. I like that it is a systemics (so it gets biters) and that I am using it in April on peonies, when very few bugs are around here. I noticed the same damage on a client's peonies. She had thrips and mildew, and between a few applications of sulphur and two of acephate the problem disappeared. They always seem to think that you work magic, but it's just a matter of keeping notes over the years. (Actually I just wave my magic wand!)

I am also checking my bulbs daily, and if I see any disturbance I add more freshly ground black pepper. I have noticed that out of perhaps 20 bulbs they will dig up one, so it's working.

Thomaston, CT

I had thrips attack my glads even though I stored them with an insecticide for I don't save them anymore....just buy new ones in the spring....

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I think I have just been lucky. Nothing seems to have gone after my glads. It would be a shame because I was gifted with a large group of Abyssinian glads by a certain wonderful DGer in Alaska.My conventional glads didn't bloom, but hers did. I dug them up, cut off the stems and they are in my garage drying out. My callas in pots are in the basement, and the callas in the ground are also in the garage.

May I ask what you used for thrips? I always use acephate, because I find that things like insecticidal soap and sharp sprays of water don't work no matter how much I use them - even daily. I had to toss a brug a few years back because I couldn't fight off the spider mites indoors. I got spider mites out of miniature roses because I could put them back outside - they could handle the zone 5 cold.

I am hoping the combo of acephate and insecticidal soap work. I read an article and it suggests rotating substances, but the only ones I am willing to use are the systemic, insecticidal soap and neem oil, all of which have. No malathian! Ick! But if it doesn't work the plants are going. Happily, my babnan plant and peace lily, although nearby, escaped because whiteflies don't care for them.

Thomaston, CT

Whiteflies are tough....I don't remember what I used on the glad corms, but it was a dust of some kind......I had washed, dried, & dusted over 100 corms....all were affected, & that was the end of my glad selling days!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Wow! Sounds like a real pain!

I have other indoor plants whiteflies don't like. I have isolated the hibiscus in another room, and am going to treat them for about three weeks, and then adios! After all, they aren't mine!

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

Sigh, I think my orange plant has spider mites, so the whole collection will need treatments. It is much easier when they can spend all summer outdoors. Usually some fungicide sprays are sufficient protection just before they come in for winter.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)


Yes, some whitefly treatments before bring them in would have been prudent. Some things you know and just don't do. I knew.

The funny part is that I can't tell whether the little buggers are dead or just avoiding moving when I'm around!

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Tee hee, do you really think they are playing dead because you're watching?

Do the lindens have a fragrance? There is some tree that smells wonderful and I sort of thought it was a linden. We have a lilac tree, which is S. reticulata, a Japanese variety of lilac. Its flowers are a lot plainer than all the other lilacs but the smell is much more subtle. It also blooms more like the beginning of June.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, absolutely!. They are smart little devils. "There she is guys - freeze!"

Linden flowers have a wonderful fragrance. They really get the bees buzzing. It's almost as though they are intoxicated - they pay no attention to you!

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

I'm sure stuff went into hiding on my tender plants this year because I sprayed in advance of moving things in, but the problems sprang up anyway.

The lindens must be amazing trees since any tree that gets a buzz is truly wonderful and worth planting for more reasons than its beauty.

The other thing I care about is having some tall trees for the owls and hawks to have good nesting places. Learning more of the different owl calls is on my to do list because I've got the common ones down, but there have been some amazing nightime sounds in early fall.

With all the new building in town, many gorgeous trees have been removed. Last weekend we took a dog walk to where a lovely pair of large ilex opaca were, and fortunately the builder left them alone.

South Hamilton, MA

We heard the barred owls calling last night. We are quite heavily wooded so they must be ok.

Thomaston, CT

Love to hear the owls....Garret wants to remove an old pear tree from the yard, but that's where the bluebirds fledged this year....the tree stays!

South Hamilton, MA

Hope that your tree also flowers. the Bramley pears are easily broken, however.

South Hamilton, MA

After seeing all the berries while driving on errands, I forgot--do you have Winterberry? they are fantastic right now.

Thomaston, CT

You beat me to the post, Lucy....I was just going to write about how beautiful the winterberries are this year....I don't have any, but I'd love to plant some ....I know you need a male & female.....

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

So I am right, lindens have a nice fragrance. And Donna is right, whiteflies hide and play dead, Sorry I don't check this thread all the time.

Pepperell, MA(Zone 6a)

have some here and they have looked cheerful!

Salem Cnty, NJ(Zone 7b)

Agreed. My winter berries look better this year than I have seen them.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

All the more reason for me to plant more matched males to escort the ladies! My winterberries are only so so this year. One of the lasagna beds in construction is uphill from them, which I hope will help even the moisture. That and a little more sun ought to be unscientific means to improve it, I guess. Mr. and Mrs. Poppins are coming in spring.

Among the lessons I am constantly learning is not to be more ambitious than what I can finish. Since we're at the end of the season, it meant spending a couple hours in the rain today to get the town's free compost and to finish planting a second JM near the front steps, this one a full moon miniature that was living in a pot.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, Rosemary, I hear you! Many an early December I have been out in freezing temperatures trying to finish projects. And although I started yard cleanup in September, I'm still out there sniffing away. I need to get the balance of the compost I finally made succesfully into barrels, and I am still putting protection around plants that are shy to bloom, like all the darned oakleaf and macrophylla hydrangeas.

But I did get my abelia out of the ground and into a pot. Raulston Arboretum gives me plants that I never would have bought, and then I put them in the ground and they blow me away. But sometimes they are zone 6 plants, and I lost two gorgeous abelia 'Pinkie Bells' by gambling. The next year I received an abelia I unexpectedly loved that blooms in the fall (so it's still blooming) that has a very small root ball and a small root system so it fits nicely in a pot. So it's now on my southfacing living room, on a gorgeous hardwood table that a very wealthy person in my neighborhood put out to be collected. It weighed a ton but all it needed was to have it's leg tightened and it hosts my peace lilies (3) my musa and other goodies. SOOOO cheerful during these harsh midwestern winters.

I was also sent a bourbon rose very late in the season with instructions on how to protect it, so I layered compost and created a little cage to put around it so I can build up more compost and add leaves.

I find that it's a matter of pushing yourself out there in the crummy conditions with the promise of spring in mind. It sounds like you are doing the same thing.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Donna, why do people trash pieces like your table? I spend so much energy trying to donate broken particleboard file cabinets and someone then throws away something nice!

I realize I'm totally off topic here.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

It's Ok, I know what you mean. This was a beautiful piece, with no damage to the quite gorgeous wood. It was surely worth close to $1,000 dollars. I know, because I have a lot of unfinished furniture that I started collecting many years ago. I was told that you should buy really good stuff and take care of it. I'm so happy that I did, because it cists a fortune now. It also weighs a ton, so moving it is difficult - mine is mostlly aspen (a stunning wood), and oak. A few weeks later they put out a stunning solid wood china cabinet that appeared to be solid walnut. I prefer lighter woods, but wow. I couldn't even move it. It was mirrored, and the glass was pristine. Looked like $2,000 to me.

Part of it is that I live in a neighborhood with some older, larger houses that had owners who acquired furniture when it was well made. Now people seem to favor stuff from IKEA. Much cheaper, but it doesn't last.

Thomaston, CT

I was putting up the Christmas lights when I noticed something green under the leaves...I had taken a bunch of tulip bulbs out of the pots, & forgot to plant them...all had green sprouts....I dug a few holes & in they went....will see if they come up in the spring......

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

They really should. Every year I have bulbs that poke their little heads out of the ground. Commonly they are daffodils. This year some leucojum Gravetye Giants along with the daffodils. Sometimes they become completely dislodged. I put them back in and they always bloom.

Bulbs are really smart. That's why many they have survived for centuries. Some times we get a false spring in February, and they will start to come up. Then another freeze, and you can almost hear them say "WHOA!! Then they stop and later come up just fine.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

Hurray for unexpected discoveries.

On the theme of what I've learned this year, we bought Sears rubber hoses at Kmart. The vinyl ones always burst in weather colder than 40 degrees. DH and I had a discussion because I still want to keep watering the new plants until it is positively too cold. So we got the hose with ratings for the coldest weather.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Rosemary - yes, yes, yes! I have several Sears rubber hoses and they are great. I've had them for years. One is 50 feet and the other 75. They are at Sears and K-Mart and sometimes at Sears Outlet stores for a fraction of the price. They don't kink and they don't burst. They are heavier, but mine are on hose carts (I have three) so I don't have to handle them much.

I have gotten hose carts and numerous garden tools at Sears, starting in 1998. Craftman tools, in particular, are fabulously constructed and have a lifetime replacement warranty, although I have never had to replace one. Some aren't available any more, like the best dandelion digger I have ever found. I got a more expensive one at Lee Valley that didn't work on a practical level (I thought I lost my Sears one - and it turned out that I didn't), but the two I bought from Sears in 1998 (one long handled, one short) have the right kind of prongs to defeat weeds and have strong wood handles. They are actually elegant looking. I save myself the headache of actually going into the stores by ordering on line and either going inside the entrance to pick them up or having them delivered to my car.

The biggest problem I had with Sears tools at my former home was that if I left them in the yard for any time (especially shovels) my affluent neighbors would steal them. Here, where I live around a mix of homes, some more modest, I can leave tools in plain sight (usually inadvertently) and no one will touch them, even if they are left overnight on the sidewalk or front yard of my house.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

That's weird, Donna. My guess is that people in the affluent neighborhood are looking for stuff to take, not the neighbors, just people. Neighbors in the modest neighborhood aren't thieves, and the thieves aren't looking for the stuff folks left out accidentally in THAT neighborhood, they're over in the other neighborhood.

Thomaston, CT

I bought a rubber hose this year because the vinyl kept kinking....I love it....

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

Fingers crossed with rubber hoses. DH wants to move them in for the winter every other day. You can see in our creeks that it is still a dry fall overall. Sadly the water bill was enormous this year.

While surfing for ideas for my camellia pots I found a blog that warns against using perlite in potting mixes because the fine dust can cause silicosis, a condition of burning and scarring the lungs. That is a scary thought. In recent years, I had followed advice and switched from vermiculite because of the warnings that it can be carcenogenic. Even while mixing up a batch outside, the wind blows the perlite dust into the air, enough so it isn't easy to just hold one's breath. Now I wonder if the perlite dust is too fine for a mask to make any difference, either. I don't use the moisture gels indoors, either because they are toxic. I don't hear anything against the coir linings for pots!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Wow, perlite is bad too? I used to mix up my own potting mix with vermiculite and perlite but it's really messy and I started buying the bagged stuff, which is inexpensive, and I read the warnings about vermiculite. I do take it outdoors to mix, and try to mitigate any dust by using lots of water and adding the mix more slowly, which is a drag.

Rosemary, I do move in my rubber hoses every year, but it's easy because they are on hose carts. What is more time consuming is moving in at least twenty five 25 foot long soaker hoses, but I do about five at a time, coil them up and stack them at the back of the garage. I am finding that my yard cleanup is now starting in September!

There are always things I want to do and don't get around to doing. One of them is to put some kind of barrier around roses the rabbits like to nibble - that's only about six. It makes the difference between blooming in May and June, because the roses don't have to grow back to their normal height before blooming. That and a lovely variegated japanese kerria they keep nibbling to the ground! I use hardware cloth (about three feet high) and landscape pins. But I also kept promising myself that I would burlap my hydrangea macrophyllas (3) and oakleafs (3) because at my former home it guaranteed bloom. Since we are having a VERY LATE fall (60 degrees for three days this week!) I actually got them all burlapped and used landscape pins to hold the burlap down.

But the other thing I did was to protect most of my peonies and roses with a product called Scroll Top Border Fence. It's only 14 inches high, but the sections are 20 feet long. I picked up some nice wire cutters on sale and went outside, put the fencing around them to protect, cut it to fit and, better yet, this stuff has feet that go right into the ground, so no landscape pins. I have peonies on the parkway and the postal carriers have a tendency to cut through and damage them, and seeing the 14 inch fencing stops it. And then, frankly, there is the fun of watching the neighbors freak out because you are using quite large red wire cutters. I have such fun with this - doing things women aren't supposed to do. Some people evidently find it shocking, based on the reactions. But it also makes them think that you are a little scary, walking around with your hedge trimmers and pruning the taxus, digging holes, hauling mulch. What else is she capable of? Watch out for her! Some of my neighbors clearly think I'm from another planet. Great!

Oh, I thought I'd pass on a caveat. When a grower says that a rose "resents" pruning, don't buy it. I bought a beautiful Jacquelyn DuPre rose (Harkness), put it in the ground the first year, and it was stellar. Coming out of winter, it had dead wood, which I of course pruned. It barely bloomed year two, and coming out of spring this year (year three) curled up its little feet and died. After I cursed it out, I pulled it out of the ground. Within three feet are thriving roses getting the same treatment. So now I know what "resenting"pruning, even necessary pruning of dead wood, really means!

It's a shame, because as you can see, it was lovely, and had a wonderful scent. The first two pics were from June of 2013, and the third picture is actually REBLOOM one month later! A pity.

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Thomaston, CT

That was a lovely rose.....I've pruned some roses way back, & had no or few blooms in the summer, but they usually come back fine year 3......that said, I try to buy roses thar are really hardy because they need to be up on my hill......still, I've lost my share!

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

I can just see Donna with the red wire cutters. So funny. Sometimes I get a similar feeling here about things I do in the yard because most people here hire gardeners. One day an entourage of families obviously visiting from Asia walked down the street. The cameras got very busy photographing yours truly, the suburban farmer lady, hoeing the weeds.

I did find a so-called organic vermiculite to use this weekend. The pellets were small and heavy and did not blow. The idea of permanent damage from breathing silica dust is still scary. One look at the American Lung Association website conjours visions of sitting next to the coal miners in the doctor's office because the damage is not known to be reversible.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Did you wave to the tourists?

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