Saturday, April 23, 2011

Time Marches On

I've had and enjoyed this blog for several years, but it's time to move on. Henceforward, my blog will appear on the first page of my website, Please go there to read my weekly column, as well as other gardening musings.

While you're there, at check out my lecture list, appearances and latest publications.

Wishing you Happy Days in the garden!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hellebore Happenings

Currently in bloom in my garden are several very welcome flowers. Witch hazel 'Jelena'; the first tentative snowdrops peeking out from a snowmound; three bright yellow winter aconites (where'd they come from?); and tah-dah! Hellebore orientalis, Lenten rose. First the purple, but hard on their heels will be the pure white, the speckled ones, and so forth.

Hellebore, given their preferred site of semi-shade in rich, compost-amended soil, will happily self-sow and create a carpet of early flowers. They require little care, but for best show there is one chore that needs to be done now.....removing last year's leaves.

Hellebore foliage is almost evergreen. It's big, serrated leaves persist until taken down by snow, ice or time. As you can see in the photo above, last year's leaves are now tattered, and need to be cut and composted. Once this is done, the unfurling new flowers will stand alone in full spring glory. But BE CAREFUL. Make sure you're clipping only the old material, and not snipping the emerging flower stalk.

Once you've completed this task, enjoy the hellebore flowers for weeks to come. They're one of the joys of perennial gardening.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What's New in Gardening?

The 2011 Connecticut Flower Show is over, and what did I learn?

  • That more gardeners each year are interested in growing organically, the way our grandparents did.
  • That water gardening, be it pond, waterfall, stream, etc. is still HUGE.
  • That hellebore seems to be the plant of choice for 2011.
  • That there's real concern about invasive species, such as Japanese knotweed, bittersweet and garlic mustard.
  • That there are 5 million gardening-related products to sell to winter-weary gardeners.
The best product I saw, and acquired this year at the Show is the Grass Stitcher,, an easy-to-use, ergonomic, durable lawn aerator. I'm always on the lookout for products that make life in the garden easier, and I think this is a winner. I'll be reporting in as the season progresses.

We still have a couple of feet of frozen snow on the garden, so spring work hasn't yet begun.
But the white stuff is melting slowly in the moderating weather, so it doesn't appear we'll have floods, and for that we thank Mother Nature.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flower Show!

This winter will never end. Of that I'm sure. 'Course, once it does, I'll be up to my eyeballs in work, and will rue the day I wished spring would hurry up. But this weekend is my first breath of gardening season, 2011. It's the Flower Show at the CT Convention Center, and I cannot wait. Just to walk onto the floor, transformed into garden after lush garden... to smell the mingled scents of floral perfume, dirt, mulch, and fertilizer...ahh, that's heaven. Add to that the shopping to be done, for seeds, plants, ephemera, and anything newfangled. And all the hort heads to talk to, whether in booths such as the Tri-State Hosta Society or Connecticut Gardener, or Master Gardeners or nurseries, or? 250 booths crammed full of all things horticultural. Yippee!

I plan to spend all day there on Friday, the 25th, & will lecture at 2 p.m on The Bins & Outs of Composting. Sunday, ditto, will be there all day. My lecture that day is at noon, on Hello My Garden! My newest book, Mentors in the Garden of Life, will be for sale in the Federated Garden Clubs section, and I'll also have copies at my lectures.

This winter has to quit sometime. I have to be able to get at the compost soon, and clear fallen sticks from the yard, and clip the ornamental grass, and so on. But for now, I'd just settle for a day with temperatures above 40 degrees.

Each year, the Flower Shows usher in spring. I can't recall a year when they've been more welcome!

(photos courtesy of Kristie Gonsalves, Northeast Expos)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Where'd the Years Go?

It's a blustery day; the world outside my frosted front door is still with anticipation of the snow, sleet and freezing rain the weather people have promised us. Nary a car is sliding down the street, but birds are busy at the feeder and squirrels are leaping snowbanks in a single bound to hog the cracked corn and sunflower seed.

My 62nd birthday is today. Mother used to say I was born amidst a snowstorm in '49. But I haven't had such weather on this day in years. In fact, I recall birthdays when I've been out on the lawn picking up sticks in preparation for opening the gardening season. Not so in 2011!

Such a winter day is perfect, however, for reviewing my old garden diaries. And that brings to mind the origins of my gardening passion. As the years fade into one another it's more difficult to remember just how I started, just which plants and plant categories were important to me decades ago. I'm glad I wrote a book regarding some of my gardening memories....Mentors in the Garden of Life helps preserve them for me and for others.

An introspective, retrospective day. We need these upon occasion in our busy lives, and I'm grateful to Mother Nature for forcing one upon me on my birthday.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snow, Snow and More Snow!

Far be it from me to complain about a real New England's been much too long since we've had such a beast, but this one qualifies. December was bitter cold; the temperature seldom rose above freezing, and the past 3 weeks brought some 40" of snow. The path down the front walk is more like a tunnel, and forget about the the's completely disappeared.

I worry about the wild birds in such weather. So I've been scattering a rich mixture of black oil sunflower seeds, raisens, safflower seeds, etc on the front steps, since I can't actually reach the feeder itself. I filled the green hopper just before the latest snow salvo, and it'll last a few more days, at which point I'll have to strap on some snowshoes and attend to replenishing it.

The snow is so close to the hopper, in fact, that the squirrels have figured out how to grab their disproportionate share. Oh well, they're hungry too. We're regularly visited by juncos, cardinals, wrens, titmouse, chickadees, several types of woodpeckers, and sparrows, as well as the darn squirrels.

Today I trudged through waist-deep fluff out to the feeder and birdbath on the back deck to refill the tube and assure that the heater was keeping water available to my avian friends.

My hope is that we all are paying attention to the birds in this harsh winter. If we want birds in the garden come spring, they need our help now.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Total Truth about My Garden

(this never made it to the online Danbury News-Times last week, so I'll post it here)

22 Reasons My Garden Isn't Perfect

It's a New Year, and time to 'fess up. Cleanse the soul, and all that. So here goes...Despite what you may think and I may hope, mine is not a perfect garden. Some of the reasons are:

  1. I can't grow clematis to save my soul. I've tried repeatedly but no dice; they apparently don't like me or my soil. What the heck, pruning them properly always was confusing.

  2. I've never figured out exactly how to operate the fancy Black & Decker edger I bought six years ago. It now makes a very attractive wall ornament in my garden shed.

  3. I feel sorry for the tree seedlings that sprout in the flower beds, so I let them grow.

  4. From midsummer until first frost my backyard garden is overrun with pilea. Sure, it's easy to yank out, but do I? Nope, there's always something more pressing, such as sitting in the gazebo discussing the meaning of existence with the cat.

  5. The black-handled clippers are lost. I'm pretty sure I know in which garden they were last seen, but upon my life I can't find them. They'll probably turn up next spring, rusted shut.

  6. I own way too much coneflower, corydalis, black-eyed Susan, liriope and garlic chives. Would you like some?

  7. The blankety-blank lily beetle has me thinking forbidden thoughts about chemical controls.

  8. Though at my age I don't even buy green bananas, still I'm thinking about planting a black walnut tree.

  9. I'm all fumblethumbs with the fountain, and hopeless with the hand saw.

  10. I spend too much money on garden books, too much time on TV gardening shows, and too much effort extracting every last dandelion from my front yard.

  11. The clethra is outgunning the daylily with which it's supposed to nicely cohabitate.

  12. There's moss on the pavers, mulch on the driveway, and birdseed on the sidewalk. None of which makes my husband happy.

  13. My self-constructed rock walls tend to tumble, and my arbors need painting. The wooden fence is minus a rail, and the rain barrel leaks.

  14. My onions refuse to bulb, and my cauliflower won't head.

  15. I possess more gardening doodads than a kitchen junk drawer.

  16. There's crabgrass spotting the lawn, and ragged edges on my borders. (see #2, above)

  17. The hammock is rotting, and someone has severed the soaker hose in the Mailbox Garden. (guess who?)

  18. Piles of tattered garden catalogues threaten to topple onto the family room floor. (why DO I keep them?)

  19. My favorite shovel is long in the tooth; my Felco pruners are notched where they shouldn't be, and my hoe has lost its handle.

  20. Markers from long-deceased plants litter the living room.

  21. My garden hat will never again be pristine, my garden shoes are shabby, my gloves are shot full of holes (always the left hand. Why is that, when I'm right-handed?)

  22. The last time I cleaned the garden shed I found Amelia Earhart.

C'est la vie. I'm a gardener.