New Hampshire’s Kudzu

It is everywhere. Along the roads. In waste places. In an Audubon preserve in Concord. The Japanese Knotweed.

Sometime in the past someone introduced it, thinking it was an ornamental, and in small clumps, it might be. If my eye was unbiased, I would find it attractive.

But I know better, having seen it smother 8 foot dirt piles in waste places, and having had to root it out in new garden beds.

Terrifying that this strangler escaped, and even worse is the carcinogenic poison sprayed to kill it.

The Blue and the Gold

The first photo above is of the Late Aster-Aster patens. Though this 4 ft aster is at the rear of my dry garden, it was a volunteer and in our current severe drought, it has had only the rain the sky gave it. The second photo is of the Rough Leaved goldenrod in the moist field across the road from where I live.

The third, smaller plant is the gray leaved, or Old field Goldenrod. This plant is in dry gravel on the side of a road.

Not one of these plants is weedy, not one would be out of place in a sunny New England garden. In the nursery trade one can find Solidago “Fireworks”, which is a cultivar of the Rough goldenrod.

Being autumnal myself, I have long preferred the late summer and autumn garden and its fiery colors. From now till freeze the tender salvias, spurred on by the short days, will bloom more enthusiastically. The magnificent marigold “Queen Sophia” will shine in the cool mornings.

This is the white goldenrod, the Solidaster. There are several robust plants that came into my dry garden before I made it a garden.

This is Ageratum “Dondo”, which I raised from seed. It has long stems and is used in the florist trade.

Salvia Windwalker, a floppy, but reliable bloom. In the driest, most sharply drained part of a sunny Zone 5B garden it will survive. My sister, who lives on a hill south of Concord, has one that lived through last winter.

Salvia “Amistad” may not be hardy, but it is the best and easiest salvia in my garden. Early blooming with an elegant bush like form, it will continue till freeze. It is not a dry garden plant, and it likes a bit of water and a bit of shade. It is a mystery to me why garden centers do not sell it.

Another four to five weeks and there will be only the hardiest of asters blooming. I saw the harbingers when I walked down along the Piscataguog today.

Re-Thinking Southern New Hampshire Summers

The Washington Post writes that this summer is the hottest in New Hampshire history, and I believe it, since two summers here have proved that this is not the New Hampshire of my youth . As I write this- it is over 90, and tomorrow will be 95. I have no air conditioning, and my garden is dependent on well water. A precarious situation in a drought, which we are now in.

When I visited my first New Hampshire garden center my first spring back, I was surprised to see lantanas in the annuals section, for surely it was not hot enough here for such a heat lover. Now, planning for next summer, I intend to limit the pink snapdragons, and to make room for “Miss Huff”, a lantana that can spread 3 feet in a summer. Here are two photos of her in the Nashville garden.

Miss Huff combines all my favorite sunset colors, and she will help me rout the excess pink I have in too many places. The pink Fireworks gomphrena, asters, and phlox can stay, but the pink cleome will not be invited back. Not just because they are pink, but because they shrivel in August and look awful. Exception will be made for the Coral Porterweed, native to Jamaica, shown here on the left in the Nashville garden-

The plant on the right is Celosia “Purple Flamingo”, and I will scour the earth to find seed for next spring.

The image above is of a first year plant in my garden here. It will come inside for the winter, and by next August should be shrub-sized.

Tender perennials do hesitate in chilly early June, but with the long, long days of the New England summer they grow fast. I grow them because they bloom all season, and they keep up appearances, a virtue in August when so much of a garden looks tired.

My next post, which I will get to later this week, will be about the fall garden, and a book about that season that has had more influence on my gardening than any other.

Plant Delights Nursery mails out Miss Huff. Almost Eden, in Louisiana, will send you Porterweeds and tender salvias.

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.