Monday, May 31, 2010

Hankering for Hostas

This handsome fellow is the 2007 Hosta of the Year, 'Paradigm'. He's fast-growing, slug-resistant, sun-tolerant, seersuckered, and huge. A good doer. He lives by the gate to my shade garden and has grown so big in 3 years that next spring I'll have to move him back a couple of feet so I can access the garden. He's also crowding out hosta 'Christmas Pageant', another beautiful plant, but totally overshadowed by Mr. Paradigm at this point.

I'm fortunate to know the names of these cultivars....I'm not terribly good at labeling, though every year or so I get an attack of conscience and then purchase yet more and fancier labels which I don't use. C'est la vie. Now my ever-growing hosta collection is setting seed and producing some babies, confusing things immensely. I do have to label those, so one doesn't get mixed up with the cultivars. Most of the young 'uns are nondescript, but I could use them to fill in spaces....

I see no end to my hosta wishlist. Lately I lust for 'Mighty Mouse' and 'Liberty'. 'Marmelade' sounds delicious, and I must have 'Dream Queen'. I favor the large, variegated cultivars, but the itty-bitty ones like 'Pandora's Box' and 'Blue Mouse Ears' are charming, too. Every year Paul Young and I travel to Granby, CT, to John O'Brien's hosta nursery, ( ) and every year I bring home yet more lovely cultivars. I seem to have decent growing conditions for hosta in most of my gardens. Lots of compost helps, and regular applications of my homemade deer repellent.
Change is a-coming, however. In my main front garden, the European white birches (which I didn't plant) are in decline. When they go, the whole front yard will be sunny, necessitating a re-do of much gardening space.
But isn't that what gardening is all about; the permanance of change?

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Spring View of the Shade Garden

Spring is the happiest time in the deeply-shaded, narrow garden between the south side of the house and the woods. The soil, amended well with compost and peat when the area was dug and the fieldstone path laid 10 years ago, is now root-infiltrated and dry. Some things do well, such as the tiarella and phlox stolonifera above, intermixed with hosta and backed by old-fashioned bleeding heart. The plantings almost obscure the large rock outcropping which was the impetus for making this area a garden. The ledge was just too difficult to mow around, and the sparse grass became thinner with each passing year.

I try different things in there on a regular basis, and some plants, such as Virginia bluebells, have thrived, but the Shade Garden remains one of my most difficult challenges. In April I removed the leggy rhodies along the east side, and replaced them with a deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls' and a itea 'Little Henry'. We'll see.....

One thing that helps is the small red tulips I plant each autumn. Though they won't perennialize b/c there's not enough sun, the effort of yearly planting is worth the bright sparks of color in spring. And I love tiarella. It takes deep shade, the deer don't bother it, and it self-sows. I have several cultivars and numerous seedlings.
Heucherella is a cross between heuchera and tiarella. I find it tolerates significant shade, blooms well, and is a healthy, deer proof plant. I recently purchased 'Sweet Tea', a lovely caramel hue, and put it in with some large hostas at the entrance to the Shade Garden. I like the color contrast, and we'll see how that area does.

After all, a gardener is always learning.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


The allee of crabapples along my front walk bloomed early, like everything else this crazy spring. There are three of the small flowering trees. The first, an unknown cultivar, was a Mother's Day present some 15 years ago and I don't know its name, but like the rest, it's disease-resistant, floriferous, and fruit-bearing.

The second, 'Prairie Fire' blooms a pretty pink, and bears round red fruits that the birds quickly devour, often before they fully ripen.

The picture is a closeup of the third crabapple, 'Scarlet Brandywine'. My favorite, its bloom is double and fragrant, and the fruit is large and orange.

Crabapples, especially the newer disease-resistant ones, give three seasons of interest. The often-reddish leaves, the magnificent flowers, and the fruit, which nourishes both the birds and our souls.

Gardening in concert with Mother Nature. It's the best.