The Cost of a Tomato is Eternal Vigilance

A friend of my sister is from the Netherlands. She and her husband have a small country homestead, and presuming she would say “yes”, I asked her if she had a vegetable garden.

She shook her head and grimaced.

“Ah, no,” she said, “The animals”.

In the following photo, if you look closely at the middle of the rock wall behind the dry garden, you will see a pile of sand and part of a wooden handle belonging to an edger I shoved into a woodchuck hole. I packed around the handle with the spiny corpse of the sea holly “Little Hobbit”, a plant I will not miss.( In my vegetable garden I shoved a pitchfork into a wall the woodchucks came through).

The animals. Woodchucks that ate 10 cucumber plants and defoliated 15 squash. They ignored the tomatoes, and I thought I was lucky. Until the three inch tomato hornworms showed up and ravaged my Carbon heirloom plants. I drowned them in bleach. I snipped their heads off. Tonight I have to go out on patrol again. I leave the smaller worms with white spines coming out of their backs for the spikes are the eggs of a parasitic wasp, who is helping me. The small worms are as good as dead.

Chipmunks ate my basil. Japanese beetles are on the tall evening primrose. I have yet to see a deer or a rabbit, though.

My landlord’s handyman has rigged a plug for me under the barn, and I will soon establish an electric fence perimeter around the vegetable garden. The University of NH Extension service advises fencing instead of violence in dealing with the woodchucks.

My neighbor”s cat “Luna”, who like to lounge on landscape fabric, may not be happy.

Here, on a happier note , is a photo of Salvia “Windwalker”, a salvia that acts as though it is a groundcover. This is a new plant, but my sister has one I planted last year that survived the winter.

Above is Agastache “Blue Fortune”, a bee plant that grows in sand and never wilts. On the right is what I believe is Silver Queen artemesia. I found it growing in the lawn down back. It is another Never Wilter, very useful, since we are in a drought and the pond behind the dam is now half mud flat.

A Three Month Old Garden in New Boston

Sonnet and Rocket Snapdragon, Angelonias, Heliopsis, Castor Beans, Salvia “Black and Blue”, old fashioned Balsams, Nicotiana mutabilis.

This is Cottage style planting with an intermingling of colors. Plants are not massed in blocks. I prefer a pointillist effect.

Salvia Mystic Spires, Balsams, petunias Sonnet Pink Snapdragons, “Dondo” ageratum not yet blooming.

Closeups of Balsams. These are easy to grow from seed, and would be a good starter seed for a child to plant. They are an heirloom annual and a form of Impatiens. Let them dry out and they faint into a heap. These self sowed throughout a rock wall in a Nashville garden I cared for.

These next photos are of the dry garden and the hanging garden of volunteer phlox that sprout in the granite wall. The soil here is sand. When I decided to put a garden bed in such inhospitable ground I had the local inhabitants show me the way. There were several large stands of Oenethera biennis, various dry field goldenrods, wild black eyed susans, aster lateriflorums, heath asters, feral daylilies, and the spotted St.John’s wort.

I added Globe thistles, blue agastache, Russian sages, Salvia darcyi, Salvia “Cold Hardy Pink”, Lavender “Phenomenal”, Tropical Butterfly weed, Pink Porterweed, Salvia “Windwalker” and “Indigo Spires”. Also: Kudos agastaches, Artemesia Silver King, Sea Lavender. White perennial scabious, Aster laevis, Aster “Monte Casino”, Aster “Pink Star”, Panicum grass “Cloud Nine”, Sedum “Matrona”,Euphorbia polychroma, Yucca “Gold Sword”, Showy Goldenrod,”Southern Cross” Ironweed, Native orange Butterfly weed, Aretmesia “Silver Mound”. Red, orange and “Fireworks ” gomphrenas, and Verbena bonairiensis. The “Queen Sophia” marigold. Chrysopsis villosa, the prairie golden aster.

And soon to be added- Montauk daisies and Pink Muhly grass. The latter is not hardy here, but will be wintered inside.

When we were at 100 degrees a few days ago, my balsams fell over, the cleomes shed yellow leaves, and misery was everywhere, except in this part of the garden.

A Sunday Surprise

I drove to Goffstown to the hardware store today to take a look at their outside plant department. I have found many a fine perennial there- the “Southern Cross” ironweed, for example- and thought the store would not be crowded on a Sunday morning.

I had to park across the street next to the dumpsters, for the lot was full. I found the new anemone cultivar “Fall in Love ‘Sweetly’ ” and “Fiery Meadow Mama”, a showy coneflower, and as I was loading them into the front seat to ride along home with me, I saw something unbelievable growing near the dumpsters. I brought home a bouquet of it, hoping I could save some seed, though I did not know if the color would run true.

A pink and burgundy colored Queen Anne’s lace.

Of course the Internet knows all, and this new color strain is called “Dara”. Southern Living magazine had an article about it, and the seed companies are selling it.

And I found it on a hot late July Sunday morning growing with the trash.

Feral Phlox

The tall garden phlox need rich, well-watered soil and pampering, according to the experts and the books.

Yet the old farm and dooryard varieties cannot read, and they grow where they want to. I have one that came up in the middle of a quince bush. Others persisted in forgotten places against the house. One four foot tall variety ,yet to declare its color, is growing in sand in the dry garden.

And then there are these,obviously self-seeded, and sprouting out of cracks in a granite retaining wall.

The granite must protect the roots and keep them cool and moist, although one is growing in a pile of sand at the entrance to a woodchuck burrow.

Plants always astonish me.

Nicotiana mutabilis

This plant, taller than I am, traveled 3000 miles to New Boston to live with me. I bought it, and two other Nicotiana cultivars, from Annie’s Annuals in California. I grew this flower in Tennessee where it remained small and reluctant. But I remember Elizabeth Lawrence, the best of American garden writers, writing that once she had seen the nicotianas blooming in New England gardens, she never again tried to grow them in her garden in North Carolina.

Mutabilis has large rosettes of basal leaves and long weeping arms drooping down from the main stem. It flowers all summer in pink and white.

When I was young I spent my study halls reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings over and over. I remember the story of the Entwives, who wandered away from their tree shepherd husbands, the Ents, to find fields and open places to plant their flowers and fruits.

This plant looks like an Entwife to me,sweeping her arms down into the garden, caring for her flower children.

The Fourth of July, and a Phantom Train

I live up the road from the Lang Railroad Station in New Boston. The station is now part of a town forest and walkway along the old railroad line. No train has been heard here since early in the last century.

But one went through last night.

I was home from work at midnight and watching HBO’s “Perry Mason”, when I heard a loud approach of an unmistakable train whistle. I thought it was the TV, then realized it was out on the road. I saw lights as it went by, then heard it up on Rte 13. About an hour later, it went by again.

I believe it might be one of those idiosyncratic small town traditions of the Fourth. Someone with loudspeakers on their truck cruised the dark roads of New Boston in the early hours of the Fourth sending a lost sound of the past out into the night.

This morning, as I was in the front yard thinking of how to stuff mothballs into the burrow of my plant destroying enemy, a parade of ancient automobiles draped with flags and filled with waving people, drove up the road.

I expected nothing from this grim Fourth , but these were unexpected heart lifting events, transient though they were-

Happy Fourth, and may you hear ghost trains tonight and watch motorcades from happier times-

And here are some obligatory garden pictures .

The Bow Garden Club Garden

When I moved to back to New Hampshire I bought books about New England gardening,but nothing in them taught me as much as driving down Rockingham St. in Concord , or visiting The Fells near Lake Sunapee, or stopping on my way home from work in the morning to see what was blooming in the Bow Garden Club garden on Logging Hill Road.

Eyes opened, I saw flowers I had had only seen in English garden picture books. Some plants were such mysteries I had to look them up

What was this Bleeding heart blooming in the late summer in the Bow Garden Club garden? I had never heard of a bleeding heart that did not disappear after blooming-

What could this be? I have been to many Southern gardens, but never encountered this plant-

Centaurea dealbata- a hardy Bachelor’s Button. now passing its peak.

Could this be Campanula glomerata?

It is. But is this next flower, not yet open, another campanula? If so, which one?

I do not know-

Here are some views of the garden, and some more familiar plants.

In The Meadow

Orange hawkweed may be a pest and an opportunist, but it does shine, and it shows how complimentary orange and green can be. It came from the old world through the old seaports, not one hundred miles from here.

The maiden pink came too. This patch came with the garden here at the farm.

This is the blue biennial Canterbury Bells in a pot.

First blossom of the African Mallow. The woodchuck babies tried to prune it. I have not seen them near the garden in three days, though I see two small ones way down on the neighbor’s lawn. Maybe they are the same animals, and maybe they left because I laid down garlic and peppermint repellent.

Or maybe the fox I saw take a squirrel at dawn the other morning out on the front lawn caught them too. The fox has habits. She trots up the driveway, and I see her going up the rise outside my kitchen window on many mornings.