Frost

Montauk Daisy, Blue Lobelia, and a non-blooming Old Field goldenrod

When I drove along Rockingham Street and Logging Hill Road the other morning, I saw frost damage in the gardens. There had been ice on my windshield when I left work at 7 and blackened plants were no surprise. The cold settled into the Merrimack Valley and the growing season ended for 2019.

But not up on the big South Hill and not in a forest clearing, and not in a garden facing south south- west. The yellow coleus leaves had some crispy brown edges, but the zinnias are still here.

The Clara Curtis mums have yet to bloom, and I expect buds to open on the Aconitums any day. From the forecasts I have seen, a freeze of frost is unlikely in the next week. And certainly no hard freeze.

I gardened for more than a few decades in Nashville, and I can remember only one frost before Halloween. October 31st was always the day, and November 1st in the garden was truly the Day of the Dead. In spring the last frost could be anywhere from March 1st to April 15.

I grew up in the Upper Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire, but was away so long that I could not remember how long the growing season here would be.

It is longer than I thought, and the summers are warmer than I remember. This has been a surprise. Perennials bloom longer here than they do in the South. In Nashville the daylilies, the phlox, and the coneflowers are done by mid July. One turns to tender salvias, annuals, and exotics to keep the garden going. There is no predictable rain from mid June until mid September in Tennessee. Gardens are hostages of the Bermuda High, and only a thunderstorm or hurricane remnants fight the dryness.

My friend in Green Hills describes this summer as a 100 degrees every day and no rain for weeks and weeks. Everything is brown. If gardeners want to water they have to depend on the Cumberland River and hope that the water department does not ban the hose.

It has been dry here, but not as brutally. I do remember in the early 1960s though, when my family lived in an old farmhouse above the Little Sugar River in North Charlestown. Our spring and springhouse went dry, and we had to go into the village near the old Farwell School to get water.

As to the photo in this post, the Montauk Daisy is a perennial new to me. My sister ,who planted it, told me it was a Gerbera Daisy, and did not believe me when I told her that I was certain it wasn’t. I would still not know what it was, had I not seen it for sale at a garden center in Henniker. I have also discovered that it roots rapidly as a cutting, even in sand, though it is so large I do not know how many one small garden could absorb. It is as big as a shrub, and I would think it is best used as a specimen. I see it blooming all over Concord now, along the little side streets.

Matching Colors

The lilies of the field are now only the late asters-purple, blue, or white- and perhaps a stray Showy goldenrod.

But in the garden, where frost has yet to visit, we have colors to match the leaves.

These zinnias are a mixture of the common Cut and Cut Again variety and the “Lime Queen” series. They are not as subtle as the Japanese anemones in the background. They are not sophisticated flowers. But a child can grow them from a packet, even on stony sandy dry Yankee ground fit only for low blueberries. Their colors are not those of the demure dresses of Puritan ladies, but of the bright skirts and scarves of Bohemian immigrants.

There are cold nights coming this weekend, but perhaps the zinnias will fare better up here at eight hundred feet than they might down in the valley of the Merrimack.

On Disturbed Ground

Low Bush Blueberry

Some of the best wildflower hunting comes in the fields, on the roadsides, and in the ditches and waste places that every wildflower guide describes as “disturbed ground”.

These photos were taken under power lines on a hill above Concord, N.H. The low bush blueberry, goldenrod, and heath asters never have to fear trees and shade here, for the episodic cutting will never let trees grow.

And hidden among the stands of bog laurel and field ferns one comes upon rarities, such as this narrow leaved gentian-

This gentian was blooming in a wet area along side the access road.

In the drier areas there were the goldenrods.

Showy Goldenrod
Grass leaved Goldenrod
More Showy Goldenrods

These photos were taken in early September when the mosquitoes were few and the ticks had gone to ground.

The white topped aster with field ferns
Field aster

A Note to Readers

For more than 30 years I gardened in Tennessee. But I was raised in New England, and have now returned to New Hampshire, where I am taking care of and renovating my sister’s garden on a hill south of Concord. I have traded crepe myrtles and crinums for campanulas. Perhaps my experiences will be useful to others wondering how to garden on acid blueberry barrens studded with pebbles.