Good Form and Structure are Priceless

This lovely shrub is Hypericum “Blues Festival”. Its blooms are not long lasting, but if this plant never bloomed it would still be striking because of its blue, shapely leaves and its superb form. I put this in the Goffstown Historical Society garden last fall. It was very small, but has tripled in size.

I did not put plants that disintegrate into a heap or are so unsightly after bloom that they mar the garden. I am lazier than those great gardeners, the British. who cover bare spots left by poppies by pinning down Baby’s Breath over them. I will not plant Shasta daises or Monardas because of rapid spread and post bloom dishevelment.

I love the look of bold Color Guard yuccas and santolina and the ornamental grasses such as the bluestems “Red October” and “Standing Ovation”. Fescue grass is another favorite.

How I wish Pink Muhlenbergia capillaris would survive here. Here are photos of it in a Nashville garden I planted.

Lastly, I could not leave out a photo of “Coral Knockout” my favorite rose. It did suffer from rose thrips early in the season, but their time has passed, and there is less damage.

Blooming Today at the Goffstown Historical Society- A Canna Like No Other.

Canna Ehemanii, an heirloom from the 1800’s, put up its first spike a few days ago, and today it bloomed. Usually its flowers dangle from 6 to 8 feet up, but this spike was smaller. It is rare, and available in limited numbers in the US. Our plant came from Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan, an online nursery specializing in heirloom bulbs. Karcheskey Cannas in Pennsylvania also sells it online.

Cannas love good soil, hot sun, and lots of moisture. In dry spells the hose should never be far-

The dangling rose red bells of this canna belie the idea that cannas are common and vulgar. Along with the orchid flowered types such as “Blueberry Sparkler, they bring a tropical refinement to flower borders.

I am not certain how this canna would fare in the northernmost parts of New England, but here in tropical Southern New Hampshire, it is doing well-

A Year Ago- and Now

Above is the front porch garden of the Historical Society in Goffstown last year. Overgrown with weeds, blackberry bushes, and the invasive grass Rumex. The saponaria, or “Bouncing Bet” and the daylilies were preserved. and they are blooming now. /

Here is a photo of the renovated beds.

Yet to bloom in this border are the zinnias I raised from seed , including the scabious flowered “Candy” zinnias and the “Profusion” small flowered bedding types. The beds also feature the “Skyscraper” salvias, late blooming aromatic asters, and the old timey annual Impatiens balsamina, a reliable re -seeder. The far bed also includes “Crackerjack” African marigolds and cosmos, all raised from seed. While garden centers sell cosmos and marigolds, their selection is usually limited to common mixed types.

Goffstown Historical Society Garden- Blooming Now.

In the Sunset Garden above, Agastache, French Marigolds, lantanas, crocosmia “Lucifer, and the Blue Porterweed are blooming. The porterweed is planted in butterfly gardens all over the country. It is a tender perennial, along with the tropical butterfly weed also shown here and a mainstay of bird, bee, and butterfly gardens.

Rounding the corner, the Sunset Garden continues in front of the main porch with Wendy’s Wish salvia, more butterfly weed, Agastache “Apache Sunrise”, and the coneflower “Rainbow Marcella”.

The first of the seed raised zinnias are blooming.

The above is zinnia “Senora”. Below is “Zinderella Peach”.

More sunset colors, but still too much mulch showing. The gaps will fill with zinnias and lantanas. The ground cover portulaca oleracea is in the above photo. It blooms from mid morning on. I tried growing this in Nashville after seeing pictures of it growing out into the gravel at the Montrose gardens of Nancy Goodwin in North Carolina. Unfortunately it was decimated by rabbits, which are not a problem here.

A year ago tomorrow, I took a walk along the pedestrian path on NH Rte 114. I parked at the Historical Society, then walked down to see the fields of centaurea and Bouncing Bet in bloom. I then wandered up to the museum and saw gardens in need of weeding. The only plants besides weeds were more Saponaria, some handsome clumps of daylilies, and large beds of non blooming never divided iris. I called the Society. offered to weed and restore the gardens, and here is where we are today.

The museum is in the old Parker General Store, designated a National Historic Site. Also on the grounds is an old time two room school house which was moved to the property and the Wait Station, from the old railroad line at the base of the Uncanoonuc Mountains in Goffstown. Nurses and workers sat inside this tiny building in bad weather, waiting for their ride to Manchester. Now its only visitor inside is me, for this is where the garden tools live along with a 20 inch garter snake.

Canna “Blueberry Sparkler”

A few years back, when helping a friend restore and replant her garden , I put this canna in a bed on top of a retaining wall. When it bloomed my friend told me “I usually hate cannas, but I changed my mind when I saw this one”.

This plant came from Plant Delights in North Carolina, and is in the restored garden at the Goffstown New Hampshire Historical Society. I do not see many cannas in gardens here, and when I do they are usually dwarfs.

More bloomers at the Historical Society are shown below.

Above- The old fashioned “Harlequin” marigold.


PG Hydrangeas are the Crape Myrtles of southern New Hampshire. They are everywhere, and most are large. This is the dwarf “Bobo”. A larger shrub would have been out of scale for this small flower bed.

In the Gravel bed against the large front porch I planted the agastache “Apache Sunrise”. I think its colors are sublime-


Next is the classic daylily “Hyperion”. Big clumps of this were donated to the garden by Mrs. Jo Rumrill of Pinardville. They originally came out of the garden of a Goffstown High School football coach who planted his flowers as a memorial to his daughter.

Next is the dainty “Moonbeam” coreopsis. It is planted near the headstone of a mysterious “Mary”, who is of course resting somewhere unknown.

We were lucky that we had storms last night, for the water hoses have been kept busy by too many nice days in a row, one definition of a drought. Rain cleanses leaves and is the elixir that nothing out of of hose can equal-

Some Little Marigolds

Marigold “Strawberry Blonde”

In spring and early summer here in New Boston a pop up garden center appears beside the hardware store and Dodge’s grocery. It is not large. It is not open for long, but I drop in when I can because I have found plants there that I have not seen before and am afraid I might not see again. Here is where I found Plectranthus ” Velvet Elvis” with its exotic corrugated leaves with a deep purple underside and wondrous salvia like lavender flowers that bloom when the days shorten in August.

This spring I found marigold “Strawberry Blonde” and I brought two packs home for I cannot resist sunset colored flowers.

Down the road past Goffstown, I found this glowing little unnamed French marigold at Devriendt Farms nursery. It reminds me of “Queen Sophia” whose seeds-except for one- failed me this year. This is a worthy substitute.

Marigolds are obliging plants. One can dig the smaller ones up and move them around at will , and if towards late summer you feel you need more for autumn color, all you need to do is cut off some of the lateral branches , put rooting hormone on the stem and stick them into a small pot of moistened potting soil or half sand and half Vermiculite. Seal them into a plastic zip lock bag and wait about two weeks. Rooted, they can go right out into the flower bed. (I keep my cuttings in summer in the house, away from heat and sunlight).

Pay no attention to the haters of annuals and the gardeners who despise bright colors. Two of the greatest gardeners who ever lived-Gertrude Jekyll and Elizabeth Lawrence- loved them and loved marigolds. To quote Miss Jekyll annuals ” put on a brave show, when a brave show is needed”.

The Chocolate Cosmos

My sister and I drove to Spring Ledge in New London yesterday. She was searching for two shrubs to plant in her front border. I did not know what I was searching for, though I always know what it is when I see it.

There was an incomparable pale pink scaevola in some of the pre-planted containers, but there were none for sale in solo pots. I knew we should have visited earlier in June-

Then, in one small pot in the greenhouse I found the Chocolate Cosmos, a tuberous Mexican perennial I first read about in the 90s in Alan Lacy’s “The Garden in Autumn”, one of the books that has influenced my gardening the most.

I have planted it in a pot alongside another Mexican plant, the Chiapas Sage, and it sits on my front doorstep. Its name is no misnomer. It smells strongly of chocolate. Never before have I seen this plant for sale, even in the Nashville garden centers.

We would have lingered longer in New London, for it is a town of gardens worth seeing, but there were low clouds hiding Mt Kearsarge, and wandering about would be for another day. We went home early to escape a cold persistent rain. The weather in the past week has been abnormally chill, and two nights gave me a fear of frost. though I live in the tropical part of New Hampshire and not in Labrador like Berlin and Colebrook where nights did go to 32 degrees.

We did see this colorful bit of bedding out in front of a business on the main street in New London where we ran into a coffee shop to fortify ourselves.

My sister did find her shrubs. Here is one- an amber leaved Winebark.

90 degrees is coming this weekend, and I am happy for all the cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias I have planted that have been shivering. I am also glad for the lantanas, which also want heat. Prior to this season, the sprawling, climbing, spreading lantana “Miss Huff”, a soft orange, was my favorite, but now there is this one- Lantana “Rose Sunrise”, which I bought from White Flower Farm”.

And here is another new bloomer at the Historical Society garden- rose “Pretty Polly Pink”. Quarter sized blossoms on a miniature plant with lustrous green leaves.

The Month of Roses

“Morden Centennial”

Note- Time Stamp is wrong on some of these photos. Purely an operator malfunction!

“Morden Centennial” is a rose out of Canada, so I was not surprised that there was no dieback through this past winter. No disease either, though the leaf holes and damage come courtesy of the wicked Sawfly which lays its eggs on the back of the leaves and turns them into lace. We are spraying this weekly with both Insect soap and Neem. We hope to limit the damage. I have observed that the more matte the leaves are, the more the pests like them. The smaller groundcover type roses with shiny leaves seem more resistant.

For example, here is the small ground cover rose”Oso Easy Double Pink”.

Note the lustrous undamaged leaves. No mildew, no blackspot. A gentle, charming little thing!

Another nice little Oso Easy rose is “Italian Ice”.

Both of these roses fit nicely into small flower beds.

“Sunshine Happy Trails” is another modern repeat flowering rose . It is another groundcover rose, and has good foliage. It is hardy here in 5b.

This next rose is “Lemon Zest”. It is more vulnerable to Sawflies, but I have not seen disease. Yellow and gray- The rose and santolina compliment each other.

Beautiful in color, but a little feeble, is Coral Knock Out. It dies back in winter, and is a Sawfly favorite. We are going to spray it weekly and keep it, for the color is stunning.

Beautiful wine colored blossoms and beloved by sawflies to the point of disfigurement is “Hope For Humanity”. If we cannot spray the problem away, we will discard the rose.

I cannot recommend this rose.

Last of all, and without a photo, since I did not have my camera the day it bloomed is the rose “At Last” . It came from White Flower Farm, and how seductive it looked in their photos. It cost $ 35 dollars, is on its own roots, and was planted in May. It has turned out to be an eyesore. It does not grow. Its stems collapse onto the ground. A sad little thing that is going to meet my shovel the next time I see it, and will be thrown up into the puckerbrush and the barberries.

When “Pretty Pink Polly” and “The Fairy ” bloom, I will post photos. They are small pink and double with fine foliage The later is legendary, and has never been surpassed.

How happy we in New Hampshire should be that we can still grow roses. That the Rose Rosette plague is still to our south-

The House with the Stovepipe Hat

When I work in the garden I volunteer in, I can hear a Wood Thrush up in the trees, Canada Geese honking on their way to the river, the argumentative back and forth of the House Sparrows.

But nearest and loudest of all is the bubbling song of the House Wren, familiar to people everywhere.

Leave your watering can untouched for two weeks and these tiny squatters move in. Go to water your hanging fern and find wren babies inside.

The pair I see at the garden have a nest in the chimney pipe of the preserved old schoolhouse. I do not know if they are building a new nest or renovating an old one, or if there are already chicks in the nest of small twigs. Whatever they are doing, they do cheerfully, though there was an incident of sharp calls and alarm the other day as a foot long garter snake below rested on the gravel. I do not know if garter snakes can climb, but the wrens thought it a possibility


The compact Weigela “My Monet” is blooming now. It is a handsome shrub for small spaces.

I chose this bun like dianthus for it spiky blue foliage, and not for its blooms. The color is a bit garish, but after the churlish, shivering New Hampshire spring all colors are welcome. It has joined purple toadflax, festuca, catnip ,lamb’s ears and santolina in the front of small rose bed. The center of the bed is a meagre headstone of the late “Mary” , who has no last name and is identified only as wife. How Mary and her headstone parted ways is a mystery.

Seedling Army

Pink Senorita Zinnia

I have over three dozen pots of zinnias, marigolds, and cosmos in my front dooryard. They are in Sterilite boxes that are easily covered when the chill and storms come. All are going to a small public garden at a local historical site in around two to four weeks or as soon as they are large enough. Unlike the cheaper generic varieties I set out last year, these are what I hope to be more dazzling and choice plants.

I hope. God knows they cost enough, and came with great credentials from seed specialists. I wanted elegant and refined, and at five dollars a packet for 25 seeds I should get it, though I am dismayed at the low germination rate of many of them.

The cosmos have the most failures. A variety called “Double Click” has four seedlings. A marigold heirloom from Sweden called “Burning Embers” never showed at at all. I will have to get seeds from my sister, whose expatriate Dutch friend has a similar variety.

Kudos though to the little “Gem” marigold and its filigree foliage. And to most of the zinnias. How glad I am to have a dozen of the marigold “Profusion Bi-Color”, which I admired last fall at the Heritage Gardens in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Here is a photo from that visit-

Today is hot and humid with storms coming. The atmosphere is that of a warm greenhouse, and how the summer annuals love it! Most have left their seed leaves behind and are adding millimeters by the day. I am hoping they will soon jump inches.

I hope to do a post soon on why I grow zinnias instead of dahlias and why I think there are zinnia varieties that are very similar in flower to dahlias, and which are easier to grow and a nice substitute free of fuss and bother.

Below- Summer field- New Boston