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Reviewing 2015 Projects and Plants, Challenges and Results

Thomaston, CT

Not many folks on my road garden.....I would go crazy if I couldn't get out there!

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

I feel the same. This warm weather stretch is a reminder of what gets taken away when the weather turns cold. Perhaps we'll be more like England this winter.

Thomaston, CT

That's a happy thought...or North Carolina!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

We are projected to have a warmer than normal winter. We have already had highs of 60 the past few days.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

Yes, it's been that warm here too although the nights still get cold. It would be nice to have some pay-back for last year.

I hope to get a moment in the sun to photograph the winter look of last summer's projects, as well as the greenish grass, the blooming stinking hellebore (I have to learn how to propagate these in order to have a lot more), and the shoots of German iris.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Our nights are falling to the 20's after days in the 50's. I have been trying to photograph the yard but with my seasonal job I am always around at the wrong time of day, and I get the kind of sun that washes out photos. I got lots last year and wanted to photograph everything this year to compare them.

My feverfew and parsley are still green. I periodically have to go out and rebury tulips and leucojum Gravetye Giant that think it's spring and pop their little noses up. I use to worry about that but I realized that the bulbs can survive this.

I got too busy to deadhead some of the roses at the end of the season, so I now have the pleasure of seeing hips on roses I never saw before, like on Constance Spry. I have read that its hips have no viable seeds but what a pleasure it is to see them!

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Unfortunately "warmer than usual" doesn't mean "less snowy than usual." We are sort of dreading snow here.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

One weather expert claimed on air today that el nino is going to deprive the northeast of a white christmas. They didn't talk about whether we will be whalloped later.

Thomaston, CT

Love seeing the hips on the rose bushes......I'm searching the garden catalogs for some good ideas.....

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

I love seeing the rose hips along the National Seashore in Cape Cod. They'd be pretty in a garden, too.

Fine Gardening had an issue featuring the gardens of Adrian Bloom. Even the cover was real eye candy with grasses,a blue Montgomery spruce and red service dogwood. Naturally there was not enough time to read the whole thing as the doctor was ready early. Some catalogs such as Avant Gardens have wonderful links. Then there is Pinterest as well....Winter is still a visual feast.

Keeping my fingers crossed that there may actually be a chance to see some gardens in England this winter. The Nyman Estate is close to my destination. They claim to have a huge inventory of display plants to impress the senses.

South Hamilton, MA

English garden magazine had a list on 'winter gardens' his year it could be here, but I don't think any of us were prepared for this weather.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

I'll have to look up that magazine. Kew Gardens would be an obvious choice to visit. I won't have a vehicle so I doubt getting to Bressingham Gardens will be feasible. I know they plant for winter interest. Of course we have our own little one to visit at Elm Bank in Wellesley. It is not looking good for getting the time off at work now.

Thomaston, CT

Hope you can make it to England! What a super opportunity to see awesome gardens.....

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

Thanks. Fingers crossed.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I am thinking that in a year or two I would love to visit Bath, England (I have a friend who grew up there and a sister who visited - and then of course there are the Jane Austin references) and I would also love to see Montisfort Abbey and visit David Austins gardens. I have no real sense of the geography of all that so I would have to work it out. I was in the process of learning French for a visit to Paris and the countryside but for obvious reasons that's out.

I always wonder whether there is a rose oriented trip somewhere but I definitely don't want to be on tour buses with a group (yuk!) but otherwise I would really need to drive on the left hand side of the road!

I have been looking up Airbnbs in Bath and they are incredibly reasonable, like the lovely accommodations I had in Cambridge, Mass last year - $72 a day vs. the $300 plus a day hotels! I find that hotel costs are the killers on trips.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

I was taken to Bath, England, once as a child but what I remember is the Roman-era baths. I was not yet interested in gardens! That driving on the left is really a bear though.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

I was looking on-line. There is a Jane Austen tour of Bath. I was disappointed to learn that the Roman baths are not in use any longer.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Tours are not available? I am remembering something that is probably over 50 years old, but it wasn't in use as a bath, by people in towels with soap, in 1975 (or so). It DID have hot water, swimming pool size rooms,tour guides, tourist-stuff like that. That is too bad, if you can't tour the old Roman baths/ :(

South Hamilton, MA

The 'baths' are minus there floors & except for the swimming pool sized one
. A tour guide is more intersting than just walking around.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Yeah, I am all in favor of tour guides! For everywhere, not just Bath. Sometimes the tour guide is just as memorable as the sight you're seeing. I clearly remember our tour guide at Chichenitza; he was a Mormon named Abel (pronounced aBELL). I remember our tour guide at Canyons deChelly who said threw her used Kleenex in the mud and then said the mud was sacred. My point is that tour guides make everything more memorable.

Thomaston, CT

Wow....those 2 were memorable! My late DH loved the tour guide he had in China....couldn't believe how tall she was, said she should of played basketball.....

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, maybe that's the solution - a tour guide. The thought of going in a group makes me cringe.

We are experiencing the kind of temperatures that are making it possible for me to do the first complete fall prep thing since I moved in December of 2011. All of my roses have hardware cloth around them. I've never done that. Some yes, but not all. It keeps the rabbits from chewing them down and delaying bloom. All of my hydrangeas are burlapped. The really weird thing is that rose Marie Pavie is still green and actually budding a bit. I have done things I always meant to do. I completely emptied the compost pile into barrels. I got leaves, mostly oak, on some tender plants. I got the lawn mower tended to and it's being delivered tomorrow, to be tucked in the back of my garage.

Weirdest of all is that my two clumps of parsley, which I use as an edging and culinary plant, are still fresh and green. I just cut some for my pasta sauce. And my red peppers, which I put into the garage in their self watering pots, are still yielding enough for cooking.

I went into The Container Store a couple of years back to buy folding bookcases. A great store, but it's expensive and they charge for delivery. It is also in Cook County, where the taxes are 10.25%. But the bookcases were discounted, and I went in to get them. The charming woman who helped me, named Lisa, said that she thought I'd be a great employee and gave me a referral card. I tucked it away - for two years!

As I wrapped up my client gardens it occurred to me that a seasonal job might be smart. I just didn't want the pressure. But TCS regularly comes up as One of Forbes Magazine's 100 best companies to work for in America, so I went to their website in late September and spent three hours filling out an application, because I have zero retail experience but gardening for clients, and my previous career, made me strong in customer service. They don't play around. I had a group interview two days later, a personal interview two days after that and started at the end of September. It is very physical, but they pay double the minimum wage, and if they confirm keeping me in January as a "permanent part time", I get health insurance at a cost 10% of what I am paying now, and in October I get a 401k with a 4% match. If I don't keel over from the work (some shifts start and 5:00 a.am and some end at 11:00 p.m.) I can make some very nice additions to my retirement and social security income.

What's really cool is that Lisa was still there (she gets $400 if I stay three months, which I just did) and I was flattered when she won the company award for recruitment, and they pointed out that she had recruited me. She is a really lovely person, and I didn't want to let her down.

Oh, and the other goody - a 40% employee discount - 50% if I buy their storage systems.

So, more roses (Morden Blush has a white sport!) - two of which I want around the nonrecurrent Madame Hardy, more shade tolerant viburnums from Gary Ladman and, I think, hydrangea 'Amethyst' from Plant and Gnome. Maybe more gautheria. And maybe another trip.

Salem Cnty, NJ(Zone 7b)

Oh, good for you, Donna, and good for Lisa. Sounds like she can spot a perfect employee. Glad you have been able to do more in your garden.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Sounds terrific, Donna! I HATE shopping at Christmas. I worked retail at Christmas a thousand years ago and husbands would come in at 4:30 pm on Christmas Eve. to get a present for their wives, so that was kind of cute. Kudos to you for having the right personality. 40% discount is definitely helpful.

My husband almost took a job at LL Bean for the 30% discount, but decided he couldn't stomach it. Plus some kids the age of our oldest grandson held up a sweater he liked and said "this looks like something my GRANDFATHER would wear!"

TCS is a high quality store, though.

Thomaston, CT

Great that you got the job, better still if you get to be a regular......hours aren't great, but the benefits make up for that! I worked for the post office as a rural route sub for 5 years....the pay was super, but too physical for me in the end.....

Oviedo, FL(Zone 9b)

Well, I have been down here figuring out the wacky Florida climate. The winter has been unseasonally warm and the summer was uncharacteristically wet. On Christmas day, I have Christmas cactus, hibiscus, snapdragons, petunias, African Iris, pentas, aloe, crown of thorns and kalanchoe all in bloom outdoors. A lot of this is in containers as I keep experimenting with the various light locations in my garden. And I, Killer of Ferns, actually have 5 species alive and thriving in containers at this time. It has been fun down here all year, but I do miss my hosta minis and Empress Wu back in my old garden in MA.
Merry Christmas to all,
Martha

Salem Cnty, NJ(Zone 7b)

Merry Christmas to you as well Martha. Weather has been WACKY here, too.

Thomaston, CT

Glad you're enjoying your flowers, Martha.....just dandelions here, although my daffs & reticulated iris have come up in my front garden.....nasty weather forecast for Tues., but should change to all rain....I hope!

South Hamilton, MA

We have the pine s ready to mulch the I. reticula which are trying to come up here. just planted them this fall & I want to see them in the spring.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

It's so nice to hear all the news, including Donna's full story about TCS. I hope everyone is having a great holiday season.

We were pretty busy preparing for two young men coming from Spain to spend Christmas with our family. Their family had taken in our DD as unofficial hosts and gave her lots of good meals and advice in Spain. It was very enjoyable to share the holiday that way. One of the young men walked around to ID the plants and what regions of the world they are from. I was pleased to show off the Picea pinsapo seedling which tickles me to have, and would have been forests of giant pines to him in Spain.

Lots of the preparation included improving the back yard view by laying more cardboard boxes and newspapers and covering them with our personal compost supply while the weather held up. While the young people are out touring with our two daughters today, there may be a chance to do more of those stubborn tasks that are never done well enough.

Thomaston, CT

Very nice of you to host the young men, Rosemary......and gardeners to boot! We had an exchange student from Spain when Garret was in high school....we also had our Irish wolfhound at the time.....they pretty much kept an eye on each other!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Bravo Rosemary. I keep promising myself that I will get rid of some of the more pernicious weeds (wow, violets are sprouting!) and the way to do it is much like what you are doing. A few years back I wanted to plant oakleaf hydrangeas in a area where a major weed part was taking place. I put down cardboard boxes covered with compost for the winter and it worked.

And it's quite wonderful of you to host the students. I can imagine that it is an experience that they will never forget, and you are making it possible.

Thomaston, CT

I ordered stuff from the Bluestone catalog today....finally got some winterberries!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I was bad too. I had a 35% discount from Santa Rosa gardens, expiring December 30, so I ordered a calamagrostis brachtitryca (I have two) and that plants I can't resist, plumbago - 6 of them. They were so stellar this year I want to have more of them. That, eragrostis stenophyllus, and winterberries were all new last year and all wonderful. A total of $42, and that was with $10 shipping.

I put in an order for the bourbon rose Louise Odier to Antique Rose Emporium. My roses from them last year were wonderful. That will make three bourbons - you never see them, and at least two of them are thornless and all three bloom for months and months.

And I bit for a 25% off gift certificate from High Country Roses - theirs were so wonderful last year. I ordered a $60 one for $45. which will buy me at least three roses, and for a few dollars more probably four. I It turns out that Morden Blush has a white sport that is supposed to be sensational. I was going to get 2 Morden Snowbeauty to put around my non-recurrent Madame Hardy, but read that it was so so and that Morden Snowdrift, the sport, was fabulous. I found a hybridizer's website that compared the two. I'm also looking at Jeanne Lajoie. The beauty of it is that I don't have to choose now. I tend to look at no fewer than a dozen sources before buying any rose. There are those who will love a rose despite its flaws or one that grows poorly in my climate.

I think I have everything I want from Bluestone (and I have a ton!). It's funny - I grew salvia Verticillata 'White Rain' that they sent years ago, and then it appeared to go out of commerce just as I moved and did not bring any. So last year I found that Hazzard's seeds has the seeds and grew a bunch of them successfully. So, of course, now Bluestone has it again!

I am looking at more oakleaf hydrangeas from Plant and Gnome (amethyst?)and maybe more viburnums from Gary Ladman (more dentatum 'Chicago Lustre' to completely screen the back of my yard. But I will try to discipline myself and stop now!!!!

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

It's been fairly fun here, especially with some time off work. The young men from Spain have been interesting and very observant about American politics. Everyone gains from these cultural exchanges.

DDs piano teacher had a party for her 80th birthday, so I gave her a bunch of garden supplies in a bright red pot with a bow. I think she really liked it.

Yes, the cardboard and other stuff in the garden went on top of a thick patch of euonymous vines. They may be evergreen, but nothing else including trees can thrive where they are. Colorful shrubs are intended to go there eventually while the already planted Black spruce and the cornus florida get larger. And I got lots of pots and finally the hoses into my shed and the potted plants close together. I hear the sleet is already starting in the midwest.

Adding to the heuchera (anything with fire in its name is mine now) and sedum stocks from Santa Rosa Gardens was just too hard to resist with their Early Bird special. And garden tools were on sale at White Flower Farm so I got a hand hoe-er. Mass hort society membership has paid for itself with discounts and coupons over and over and over including another $25 off the hoe.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, Rosemary, I looked on the Santa Rosa site and saw Melting Fire and Cajun Fire. Wow!

Oh yes, we got the sleet. For whatever reason, in my area, we get only a fraction of the mess others get only a few miles away. I didn't bother to shovel the driveway or sidewalk, since I figured it would melt by morning. Well, I just came back in, and it's melting, but still there, and it's that heavy wet stuff that will tank a normal snowblower. But my studly battalion captain fireman from across the street cleared the base of my driveway - the critical part. Bryan is such a mensch. Since he has an 11.5 horsepower snowblower, he goes around the neighbors' houses and clears the base of their driveways. Once I was overpowered by snow and he went all the way down my 30 foot driveway and he freed me, since I was trapped. I adore him, and he blushes when I babble about how great he is to everyone, right in front of him. He looks embarrassed, but when I apologize he always says it's OK, so I think he likes it. A guy who lives directly across the street from me has a house full of women and a macho attitude. And no snowblower. So Bryan kindly cleared his driveway until the guy demanded that he stop. So yesterday the women of the house were out there struggling with shovels, since the guy doesn't have a snowblower. As Bugs Bunny used to say, what a maroon.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

You vamoosed euonymous with cardboard and compost? Omigosh, I am listening now. We have tons of euonymous out back.

Lexington, MA(Zone 6a)

The site has been down!

The snow arrived here too, overnight. Too bad the current crop of heuchera is covered by snow before I could capture its latest brilliant color in a photograph. My neighbor across the road from us appreciates his view of it. One of my favorites in the bunch is "Brass Lantern" which is yellow orange and has a red vein. It sets off the rest of the orange red heucheras with fire in their names very nicely. The last planting this year was a dwarf full moon maple on the other side of the sidewalk, and most of the front yard has green conifers around it, so the groupings please me anyway.

Carrie, the jury is still out on my project. I started this in summer. When I lift the first layer of cardboard and mulch, the vines look pretty brown and almost leafless but it is a clever vine that sends new shoots out through the sides. The latest part of the project is a second layer intended to vanquish the survivors. At least the project is putting good things there to attract the worms and also to hold the soil on the hill rising above our house. We still have other euonymous patches that will be endured for now.

Stuck inside, I just purchased two Morocan garden stools from Horchow which I hope to make into an economical and moveable bench for the back yard next year. The sale is on for another hour or so.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Sorry, Rosemary, it has to actually BE totally without life. Looking lifeless--I've been fooled by that before. Good luck with yours. There are enough different euonymous cousins that it will or won't work might depend on which strain. We didn't plant ours. We think it was a bird poop gift. It could be related to the E. alata in the front.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Rosemary, you're my idol. From sponsoring students to undertaking fabulous projects, you are amazing. Rosemary kindly invited me onto your Northeast, and it has become my absolute favorite. It has been wonderful listening to my Northeastern friends. I spent four years out there, and I have always thought that they are the most sophisticated, yet unsnobby, gardeners (and people) in the country.

Donna

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