This is my second summer growing the large nicotianas “Mutabilis” and “Alata”. I have also added this year “Crimson Bedder”, which I found on line at Annie’s Annuals. When I bought small plants of the first two in 2020, they formed basal rosettes around a foot wide, and their flower spikes reached three to four feet. Before the freezes , I dug up one “Alata” and four “Mutabilis”. They spent the winter in the great room’s south window and did well. They did not try to bloom, and instead had offshoots that I put in new pots. Soon I had a collection of them.

In mid July the Nicotiana mutabilis plants have basal rosettes two to three feet in circumference. They are as big as big hostas.

The plant pictured above has a double rosette. I cannot imagine how spectacular this will be. I will have to stake it, but that is no problem, and never will I wake up in August to find that the groundhog has eaten it, for it is poisonous.

The above is “Crimson Bedder”, which Annie’s says can reach four feet. These will be coming inside for the winter too.

“Alata” is tall, but less robust, and I am not certain I want it another summer for it is underwhelming alongside the other two-

I have grown the showy “Only the Lonely” nicotiana, but I found it wanting. It did not bloom long enough and grew shabby. I am certain others have had better luck than I.

Next summer I will be moving the Purple and Pink Dome asters to my sister’s garden, and I will move the phlox as well. They have been decimated by the groundhog.

I have never seen a gray leaved plant chewed up by a groundhog. They go after Aster cordifolius, cosmos, Aster patens, the showy Evening primrose, Aster “Lady in Black, “Kiss me over the Garden gate”, and every phlox they can reach. They don’t eat sedums that I can see, and I have found the following plants bulletproof, at least in my garden-

Salvias, artemesias, hostas, zinnias, persicarias, , daylilies, goldenrods, agastaches, lantanas, cannas, gomphrenas.

I should add that the groundhog will ruin coneflowers by biting off the buds, and they will do the same to the low growing rudbeckias. I have a vegetable garden protected by an electric fence, but how can one protect flower borders. I may try a trap next week, but it must be disabled before dark, or I might be dealing with a skunk. I think it is easier to plant the plants the groundhogs won’t touch. But this is a rural area, and do these animals not have natural predators? My neighbor is one. He has a shotgun, but he will not shoot around granite walls. The other killers would be foxes and coyotes and bobcats. Where are they?

Longwood Silver

I waited three months for a California on line nursery to catch up on back orders so I could finally put Plectranthus argentatus “Longwood Silver” into a garden again.

Gray foliage is elegant. It is sophisticated and it shines, and to my mind “Longwood Silver” is the finest gray leaved plant I have grown. Its only flaw is tenderness, but is easy kept indoors over winter, and spring cuttings root quickly and grow fast.

It grew as large as a bushel basket in the South, and it may do so here. It does have small spikes of blue purple flowers late, but these are insignificant and I prune them away.

“Longwood Silver” came out of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, and the new issue of Horticulture magazine has a piece on Peter Zale, who manages breeding and plant collections at Longwood. It is quite an interesting article for Dr. Zale is a specialist in the breeding of Phlox.

The only source I have found on line for this plant is Digging Dog Nursery in California.

Bright Colors on a Gray Day

We have had some unsettling weather this past week. Ninety four degree temperatures and Mississippi Delta humidity for three days followed by three days of cold rain that has battered plants and flowers into the mud. And yesterday, while sitting at my dining room table, I looked out the door into the dooryard to see a teenage woodchuck on the top step not eight inches from the glass chewing down my African Mallow.

Weeds are everywhere. The Day of the Dead marigold flowers are saturated with wet, and stems have broken and toppled. Still, I heard the Veery singing this morning.

Yesterday between the rain bands I took pictures of a flower bed not too disheveled. Its colors are still bright, and I think because the blooms are delicate and not planted in lumpy masses like bedding plants, it has an gracefulness despite its loud oranges an reds. Enough green and bright colors glow like embers, and there is no vulgarity in them-

French marigolds, salvia “Roman Red”, and the Tropical Butterfly weeds’ In the foreground is agastache “Poquillo”. The cannas are “Intrigue” and “Pacific Beauty”.

More salvias. The blue is salvia farinacea, the large coral colored sage is “Ember’s Wish”.

Update on Baby Red Squirrel

Little Gollum, the baby Red Squirrel, is still around. He is a daredevil tree climber. He is finally getting some red fur, but it has taken a month. He is so used to me that he lets me get close for pictures.

These are the first summer bloomers of 2021. Except for the Globe Thistle buds at the bottom of the photo, these plants are volunteers. Yellow Mullein, Tall Evening primrose, feral orange daylilies, and a true vacant lot weed, St John’s- wort. The St John’s-wort can spread around by root and seed, but if you are a faithful weeder, you can control it. It is one of my favorite plants. This flower bed is at the foot of a tall retaining wall and the soil is mostly sand that drains so quickly that even after rain it is dry.

A wider view of the wall garden. Note the Goldenrods growing in the wall. Of all gardens. I love dry gardens the most, and the sandy barrens in this part of New Hampshire have so many field asters and goldenrods that thrive here. A native plant purist might quibble with planting artemesia, anthemis, lavender, rosemary, marigolds, Mexican salvias , and Russian sage among the Heath asters and the silverrods, but this is my garden and I will plant it my way!

Ask Real Gardeners, not the Internet and its Content Farms

There are ten coneflowers in my sister’s lower garden. The garden drops off steeply into a field of five foot ferns. Does and fawns hide in these ferns, and all one can see are the doe’s ears.

Now the Internet, quoting universities and suspect sources, says that deer avoid coneflowers, and urges the gardener not to worry. Deer do not care for coneflower leaves. And they are right. When I went down to look at the state of the flower beds, the coneflower foliage was all there.

But the buds have been bitten clean from their stems. No flowers for us. In the fall we will have to move all the plants nearer the house if we ever want them to bloom.

Too much Internet advice comes from non gardeners who write nonsense for money. I once came upon an article listing drought tolerant plants. The blue Mophead Hydrangeas were on that list. No one who has ever seen a blue hydrangea on a hot day when it has not been well watered would write such drivel.

Real gardeners do talk to each other on the Internet in on-line forums such as “Dave’s Garden”, and your neighbor down the street, the old lady on the corner that the neighborhood calls the “Flower Lady”, even the view out the car window will give you more truth than the monetized garbage that is too prevalent on your computer.

What is blooming now- Papaver somniferum. Lauren’s Purple.


Above – snapdragon and the “Coral Knockout ” rose.

Sunset colored small flowered petunia with “Orange Peel” Cestrum

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!