Two Gardens. June 14, 2021

These are photos taken today in my sister’s garden in Bow. The flowers and plants are pass-a-long New England favorites collected by my sister, and some newer additions.

Old fashioned Sweet Williams
A lupine raised from seed.
Vintage Volunteer columbine.
Feverfew, one of my sister’s favorite plants
Yellow Loosestrife

The following plants are newer perennials I added to this garden.

Campanula “Elizabeth”

This Campanula enchants my sister. In two years it has formed a patch that has tried to crawl over every plant in its path. Nevertheless, it is beautiful and tough, though it does not bloom for more than a few weeks.

Next is Geranium “Rozanne”, one of the best perennials I have every grown. The leaves are pleasing and its purple blue blooms appear from June to frost. It likes good soil, plenty of rain, and sun or part shade.

New Boston garden is below. A view of the landing of the old stone steps with a retaining wall behind.

The grapevine on the stump is the native wild grape, a volunteer. The metal sculpture is from Mexico. The orange flowers are tropical butterfly weed and the Day of the Dead marigold. Plants on the landing are exotics. Sinningias. A magenta phygelius.

The plants in the wall are the Bluestem goldenrod and feral phlox paniculata. They will bloom in late summer.

Above, in the garden below the landing , is Purple Toadflax, a biennial. Once invited into a garden, it never leaves and seeds itself generously. An elderly Flower Club lady, visiting my garden in Nashville, once said to me that she loved watching the bees on this plant. “They make the flowers dance!”, she said.

June 12 Blooms. Old Favorites and Exotics.

Mexican “Day of the Dead” Marigold

Above is my first flower on Marigold “Cempazuchitl”, a large African Tagetes which is grown in Mexico to use as a floral symbol on The Day of the Dead November 1st.

The plant has an open, rangy ,skeletal look and large pompon blossoms. I bought three plants from Annie’s Annuals in California, and now have an additional six rooted cuttings,. I may use them to replace plants destroyed by a ground hog in the cottage garden. Leftovers will go into the vegetable garden. Marigolds, with their strong odor and unpalatable leaves, do not interest woodchucks. In her classic book on Mexican gardening, “Mexican Plants for American Gardens”, Cecile Matschat describes this Tagetes erecta and says “It has no equal when used in orange and yellow tones as color in the autumn border”.

Maltese Cross- Lychnis chaledonica

The Maltese Cross is the fire red that I love. It is a hardy perennial that I put in the front garden last year. It seems to be a favorite in New England, but I never saw one in Nashville, so I assume it is not fond of a summer tropical climate. I have no idea how long it blooms, but since red is so rare in June I will not mind if it lasts only a week.

Above is Cuphea “Hummingbird’s Lunch”, which I bought from Almost Eden nursery in Louisiana. These flowers are very small and delicate , but they, like other Cupheas, are favorites in the Hummingbird garden. Perennial in Mexico of course, where so many of my dream plants grow-

Alyogyne huegelii- Australian Blue Hibiscus

This plant , an Australian shrub, is grown in the US in California and the Desert Southwest. Trying it in containers here was a gamble. I tried to grow it in Tennessee, but the seeds never germinated, and perhaps they knew they would not thrive where the Gulf of Mexico and the Bermuda High smother the land with steam and heat from May to October. Alyogyne has the foliage of a scented geranium and is prickly enough to thwart rodents. Its flower is perfection. It seems happy in the New Hampshire summer when planted in a mixture of sand and potting soil. The experts say it will not tolerate wet feet.

Easy Elegance Rose “Music Box”

This is a second year bush. It did not die back over the winter, and its foliage is glossy and pristine. Last year I let a cleome too close to it, and the rose was not happy. This year I have to say it is one of the loveliest and healthiest roses I have seen. As each bud goes from unfolding to full flower it changes color, and before the spent blooms fall it has turned a mellow pink with lemon tinges. My other Easy Elegance rose “Pinktopia” has yet to bloom and had dieback and dead canes after the winter. I edit and discard with no mercy, and if it does not improve, I will remove it.

Music Box
Coral Knockout rose

I put this rose in my sister’s garden late last summer. This spring I moved it to my cottage garden, then realized I had picked the wrong spot, and moved it again when it was leafed out. Three moves in six months and this rose did not sulk. It is a better plant than the Red Knockout, which is scrawny and still flowerless. This picture speaks for itself. I did not plant to grow roses when I moved here, but what cottage garden would be without them.

A woodchuck, thwarted by an electric fence around the vegetable garden , has taken its revenge on my cottage garden. It has stripped my African Mallow and my heart leaved asters of their leaves and has tunneled a hole under the house. I tried sticking tines, a knife and a weed puller into the hole, and a day after he has cast them aside.

I will not be defeated by a woodchuck, and will try to remain non violent. I thought about streamers and pinwheels, but those would scare away the birds. Then I thought about how unpleasant it would be if I was a woodchuck, tunneling along only to dig those claws into a mass of bubble wrap, which will go off like a shot gun when punctured.

It may not work ,but we will see-

Old barnyard vegetable garden and electric fence

The large shrubby plants growing randomly are the Evening Primrose, Oenthera biennis. They are volunteers, and I could not bear tearing them out.

A Threatened Aster- Aster patens

Last year the Late Purple aster bloomed in my front yard garden. It was growing up against the side of the house, and when I dug up a garden bed there, I left it alone, not certain what it was. Another grew on the hillside just above my dry flower bed, and I believe it only bloomed last fall because the yard man for the property did not want to trample my flowers to cut it down..

This spring, when I cleaned up and started carrying old leaves and stalks up the hill in my Radio Flyer to dump them in the bushes, I found dozens of small aster plants coming up in the old dirt driveway and in the lawn beside it. I dug them up and put them all around my garden. Some went to my sister. I found so may that I was thinking of donating them to a local garden club.

By accident, I was looking up asters on the Internet the other day, and found that this aster, mainly found in Hillsborough County, is considered “threatened” in New Hampshire.

Not threatened by old ladies digging them out a lawn where they will be ever mowed to a stub, but by the tractors and bush hogging of people with an aversion to any plant over 5 inches tall on their property. New houses in old fields require that every field should look like a lawn and be relentlessly chopped .

The fate of this aster is like that of the Bobolink, which migrates thousands of miles each spring from the Southern Hemisphere to fields in the north where the grasses are no longer tall enough or the land spacious enough for these birds to build their nests.

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The Wild Bee-balm is blooming now. My small plant came from a clump in my sister’s garden. It likes part shade, and has a subtle beauty that the common garden Beebalm lacks. The Scarlet bee- balm is a handsome, showy plant when it is in bloom, but an undeniable wreck afterward. The leaves wither and their margins blacken, and the only remedy is to cut it to the ground. This leaves a disfiguring gap in the flower bed. I suppose one could plant Silver Queen artemesia or a New England Aster behind it, and beg their stems down over it.

Wild Bee-balm- Monarda fistulosa

Note: Wild Monarda attracts hummingbirds.

Early Bloom in Containers

Blu Lobelia
Apricot Alonsoa- Mask Flower. A closeup.

Nashville was too hot for Blue Lobelia, but I am hoping it will weather the short summer here. Everyone sells it, and it seems to be a real window box favorite. I suppose one could edge with it in open ground, but I do not care to see tiny, delicate plants spattered by rain , their heads in the mud.

Its companion is Alonsoa meridionalis “Apricot”, a South American plant I bought from Annie’s Annuals in California. I took a chance on this plant, but was relieved to read in my old copy of Alan Armitage’s “Annuals”, that Eck and Winterrowd grew a form of it at North Hill. The heat may check it, but shearing it may bring it back for fall. I bought it because of its color. I am a lover of orange in all its shades.

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After buying many mail order plants this spring, I can report that the US Postal Service has lost the confidence of on-line nurseries. UPS and Fed Ex bring everything, and in under three days. Last spring dead plants were arriving after 2 weeks in limbo at the USPS. The online nurseries are gambling that gardeners want the nursery plants so much that they are willing to pay double for shipping. I think the nurseries have won their bet. Most are already sold out. Digging Dog Nursery in California was so overwhelmed by orders that they suspended taking them for over two months. I was just able to order yesterday.

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On the Hardiness Watch, I will report that a half dozen Dusty Millers I put in last year, when I was desperate for gray plants, have survived, and they look to be more attractive than the first year plants. They are sold as tender annuals, but I have read that people in Zone 4 are seeing them come back.

Second Year Dusty Miller

And here is a follow up photo of the Chartreuse Nine Bark shrub I bought in early spring. It is a nice alternative to Spirea.

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We have had so much rain in the past three days that I am certain the Flash Drought has broken. Because it was a cold rain through 45 degree days my vegetable plants, cosmos, and tender celosia seedlings are in the house with me, for I was worried about damp roots and mold. 48 F now, and 90F by the end of the week. Enough said about New England weather, but how grateful we are for the rain.

For those who like to browse garden photos online-

I was looking up a Persicaria I wanted to buy from Digging Dog when Google brought me to the photography website of Marianne Majerus and her photos of European gardens designed by Belgian designer and plant breeder Chris Ghyselen. Ghyselen designs in the Prairie Style, which I find spectacular, but impractical for small gardens. But his borders are more restrained than those common two acre mass extravaganzas of coneflowers and grasses.

Look at the plants he uses! The Persicarias, which he breeds, but also plants -dear to my heart- asters and goldenrods. The photos by Majerus are also captioned so that we can see what plants we are looking at, and I wandered all over the Internet looking for sources in the States that sell them.

The Europeans are adventurous . They grow great plants years before we see them, and they focus on American asters and goldenrods and eupatoriums. One need only to look at the Kew Garden book on asters written by Paul and Helen Picton , who seem to have in their garden, every aster known to man, most of them North American species and new cultivars.

Old Timey Iris

I went to Bow this morning to take some rescued ferns and Siberian iris to my sister, and found the antique iris we moved from the shade beside the driveway two years ago in full bloom.

These are not today’s showy, frilled, massive plants, but forgotten cultivars from years ago that survived root borers and neglect, persisted in shade, and came to bloom again when someone dug them out of a ditch or rescued them from some old property about to be bulldozed.

There is nothing modern about these plants, and that is why I like them. They fit into a small flower bed, and don’t look awkward or overdressed. They do not need more water than New Hampshire gives them. They need only a patch of sun.

On my way home from Bow I stopped on Gorham Pond Road in Dunbarton to see the annual show of Lupines that naturalized in these fields that look out west toward the Green Mountains of Vermont.

And as a bonus to this sparkling day- it rained a lot last night!

Three Wildflowers and a Rose

When I lived in New Hampshire early in life I never saw the American Columbine growing, and it was in Tennessee at The Narrows of the Harpeth State Park that I saw it first on the limestone cliffs above the river.

Yet I found it yesterday, growing on the verge along Gregg Mill Road. There is only one plant, and today I walked down to photograph it.

Not far down the road the starflower and the Canada Mayflower were blooming, and the latter and its shiny leaves come up everywhere shady. It is beyond abundant.

Starflower
Canada Mayflower

It was still cool this morning when I took these photos, and despite the drought the fields looked bright and green.

And the magnificent ferns were unfurling-

Back in the garden, rose “Apricot Drift” had its first blossom. I grew this rose in Nashville, and the worst thing it did was have a few yellow leaves. No mildew. No blackspot. Its leaves are tiny, and it stays under 3 ft, since one of its parents was a miniature rose. I bought this a month or so ago from a local nursery that carries only known hardy roses.

In form and color it looks like a David Austin rose.

All shades of orange appeal to me, and the next rose to bloom here will be “Coral Knockout”, which I bought last year and moved to a new spot in April. The rose was unfazed , and is leafed out, healthy and budding.

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A word about Little Gollum , the squirrel. He still is fur-less , and was out under the feeder this morning eating the peanut pieces Chewy just delivered. He is a good climber. I am trying not to grow too fond of him.

Baby Red Squirrel

His resemblance to Gollum is remarkable! His sibling already has fur, but this little one looks like a runt. He is not cautious, and he ventured out into the wide lawn earlier, where there are many dangers. I did not see him yesterday and I thought about the Red tails, the local fox, and Luna, my neighbor’s cat.

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Vintage iris planted long before I came here. They endure from year to year-

A Few Words about the David Austin Roses

When the David Austin roses came to the US, I bought and planted about two dozen of them in my garden in Nashville. How seductive they were, and still are, and yet not one of them would I grow again.

I never thought I would live in New Hampshire and be writing about those roses. They were marketed at first to Higher zones than 5, but now I see their sellers are committing Zone Creep and selling them four miles from me at the local hardware store in Goffstown. Businesses who sell plants locally are conservative souls who do not want to hear about what rose someone paid 60.00 for that froze and died over the winter. But who could resist “Graham Thomas” and its resplendent golden blooms when the Missouri Botanical Gardens, Dave’s Garden, and the vendors agree that Zone 5 is possible.

I do wonder about the hardiness, but my argument is that this may bloom well and constantly in California , a known paradise for roses, but do poorly elsewhere.

In Nashville, my “Graham Thomas” had 13 foot canes and bloomed once. All it did was get bigger. I tossed it after two years.

I still have a paper I wrote for a plant society about my evaluation of these roses in 1992. Granted, they could be improved now, but over and over I wrote:

No repeat bloom

Riddled with blackspot.

Beautiful blooms on a short angular ugly bush

Mediocre.

Maybe these roses will do well in New England, but I would advise going to the Dave’s garden website and reading real gardener’s comments about them.

If these are going for 10 bucks at Walmart and you do not mind gambling, try one.

But at 50.00 or 60.00 dollars a pot you will gamble the cost of two tanks of fuel.

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There is Gardening Mania abroad in the US ,and people new to gardening are on a spree. The Online nurseries are sold out. All beginners spend foolishly and make mistakes. I was once one of them, and after 40 years of digging was stupid enough to buy Digiplexis when it first appeared., which is proof.

Verbascum and Rose Campion

This little rose campion is different from the ones I see in other gardens and and at garden centers. It lives in a dry, partly shady area in my sister’s garden in Bow. My sister does not remember where it came from, but bets that it was a pass along plant, probably from my other sister. This is the third year I have seen this plant, and it must be older than that. Quite perennial for a campion, and so early to bloom that it blooms alone-

Here is a photo of a “Southern Charm” mullein in a hot, dry bed in my garden. It came from the local hardware store this spring, and is planted in front of four yet to bloom “Lauren’s Purple” opium poppies from Annie’s Annuals in California. I hope the poppy seeds itself in. Note the frilly blue leaves.

I have never grown this poppy before, but I remember seeing a bed full of them in one hot spring day many years ago. They were in an herb garden in Nashville, and looked like purple silk fluttering in a breeze.

Two New Salvias

Every year I try to test a few new plants and for every failure, I discover a new plant worth keeping.

I have several new salvias this year, but the most promising and precocious are the Chiapas Sage from the forest verges of mountainous Mexico, and Salvia “Roman Red”, a cross between Salvia darcyi (also from Mexico) and Salvia splendens, originally from the tropics. I took cuttings from “Roman Red”, and they struck in under two weeks. Today one plant had its first flower, and I am impressed.

It has settled in to the driest part of the garden, and Monrovia nurseries say it is a great for xeric plantings. It should grow to 24 inches or so and bloom all season. Other red salvias I have grown are late season flowering( “Windwalker” and Gregg’s salvias) and dawdle through till late summer. I do have “Windwalker” this year as well as “Vermillion Bluffs”, but they are still flowerless. Gregg’s salvias are not for New Hampshire, though if I lived on Cape Cod I would try them. If Crape Myrtles grow on the Cape, Gregg’s will too.

The other new salvia from Chiapas is both delicate and enthusiastic. It has been in its container under the Redbud for only two weeks, and it is already sending up fresh sprouts from its base. Of course, the hummingbirds have found it.