Baby Red Squirrel

His resemblance to Gollum is remarkable! His sibling already has fur, but this little one looks like a runt. He is not cautious, and he ventured out into the wide lawn earlier, where there are many dangers. I did not see him yesterday and I thought about the Red tails, the local fox, and Luna, my neighbor’s cat.

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Vintage iris planted long before I came here. They endure from year to year-

A Few Words about the David Austin Roses

When the David Austin roses came to the US, I bought and planted about two dozen of them in my garden in Nashville. How seductive they were, and still are, and yet not one of them would I grow again.

I never thought I would live in New Hampshire and be writing about those roses. They were marketed at first to Higher zones than 5, but now I see their sellers are committing Zone Creep and selling them four miles from me at the local hardware store in Goffstown. Businesses who sell plants locally are conservative souls who do not want to hear about what rose someone paid 60.00 for that froze and died over the winter. But who could resist “Graham Thomas” and its resplendent golden blooms when the Missouri Botanical Gardens, Dave’s Garden, and the vendors agree that Zone 5 is possible.

I do wonder about the hardiness, but my argument is that this may bloom well and constantly in California , a known paradise for roses, but do poorly elsewhere.

In Nashville, my “Graham Thomas” had 13 foot canes and bloomed once. All it did was get bigger. I tossed it after two years.

I still have a paper I wrote for a plant society about my evaluation of these roses in 1992. Granted, they could be improved now, but over and over I wrote:

No repeat bloom

Riddled with blackspot.

Beautiful blooms on a short angular ugly bush

Mediocre.

Maybe these roses will do well in New England, but I would advise going to the Dave’s garden website and reading real gardener’s comments about them.

If these are going for 10 bucks at Walmart and you do not mind gambling, try one.

But at 50.00 or 60.00 dollars a pot you will gamble the cost of two tanks of fuel.

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There is Gardening Mania abroad in the US ,and people new to gardening are on a spree. The Online nurseries are sold out. All beginners spend foolishly and make mistakes. I was once one of them, and after 40 years of digging was stupid enough to buy Digiplexis when it first appeared., which is proof.

Verbascum and Rose Campion

This little rose campion is different from the ones I see in other gardens and and at garden centers. It lives in a dry, partly shady area in my sister’s garden in Bow. My sister does not remember where it came from, but bets that it was a pass along plant, probably from my other sister. This is the third year I have seen this plant, and it must be older than that. Quite perennial for a campion, and so early to bloom that it blooms alone-

Here is a photo of a “Southern Charm” mullein in a hot, dry bed in my garden. It came from the local hardware store this spring, and is planted in front of four yet to bloom “Lauren’s Purple” opium poppies from Annie’s Annuals in California. I hope the poppy seeds itself in. Note the frilly blue leaves.

I have never grown this poppy before, but I remember seeing a bed full of them in one hot spring day many years ago. They were in an herb garden in Nashville, and looked like purple silk fluttering in a breeze.

Two New Salvias

Every year I try to test a few new plants and for every failure, I discover a new plant worth keeping.

I have several new salvias this year, but the most promising and precocious are the Chiapas Sage from the forest verges of mountainous Mexico, and Salvia “Roman Red”, a cross between Salvia darcyi (also from Mexico) and Salvia splendens, originally from the tropics. I took cuttings from “Roman Red”, and they struck in under two weeks. Today one plant had its first flower, and I am impressed.

It has settled in to the driest part of the garden, and Monrovia nurseries say it is a great for xeric plantings. It should grow to 24 inches or so and bloom all season. Other red salvias I have grown are late season flowering( “Windwalker” and Gregg’s salvias) and dawdle through till late summer. I do have “Windwalker” this year as well as “Vermillion Bluffs”, but they are still flowerless. Gregg’s salvias are not for New Hampshire, though if I lived on Cape Cod I would try them. If Crape Myrtles grow on the Cape, Gregg’s will too.

The other new salvia from Chiapas is both delicate and enthusiastic. It has been in its container under the Redbud for only two weeks, and it is already sending up fresh sprouts from its base. Of course, the hummingbirds have found it.

May 8- Arrivals

Agastaches and Anthemis just out of the box.

My order from Romence Gardens in Michigan came today, and though the taller agastaches were a bit frazzled by box confinement, the plants were in fine condition. Romence is on Dave’s Garden Watchdog list of the 30 best reviewed mail order companies in the US. I had never ordered from them before, and I have never seen an order shipped in five inch pots. 3.5 inches is more standard. These are not plants that are going to take a year to look presentable either. Pay 18.00 at other nurseries and you will get a sprig or a twig, and when you see the same plant on sale down NH Route 13 at the garden center you will be mortified-

Anthemis tinctora “Charme”

Though Elizabeth Lawrence mentions growing Anthemis, or Golden Marguerite, in her legendary North Carolina garden, I never saw it in any garden in Nashville, and never saw it for sale. Lawrence describes it as a “coarse” plant, and the Missouri Botanical Gardens website says it does not like the southern climate. I bought two plants after reading that it needs poor, dry soil in sun. I have that kind of soil, and it is my favorite ground to garden in. I do not try to fix the unfixable with soil tests or amendments. Given a field that was once blueberry barrens, I plant what will thrive there- The silver rod. The Tall Primrose, the Late purple aster, and the Showy goldenrod. Add lavender, and dry land Salvias, Russian Sages, yucca, Sea Lavender, and Globe Thistles and you have a garden you do not have to beg or coddle. Their gray, tough, smelly, spiny leaves repel groundhogs and chipmunks too, and I have never seen a deer track there.

Dwarf Agastache “Poquito”

The tall blue agastaches are perennial, but the South west sunset colored ones are annuals or iffy. I had one come back this year. They come in the orange and coral shades I love, and they like it dry.

Though today is cool and gray, I looked out at the suet feeder this morning , and there was the first Baltimore oriole of the season. It is heartening to know that the Color birds- the Indigo Bunting, the Rose- breasted Grosbeak, the Scarlet Tanager are on their way. As are the soulful singers. The Veery, the Wood Thrush, and the Hermit Thrush. I saw a Hermit thrush down by Lang Station two days ago , on a path lined by reindeer lichen. Unfortunately, that morning he had nothing to say. I have not heard him sing in almost forty years, though he winters in the South. The Veery I will hear when I am out in my garden since I live beside a river and many Hemlock trees.

I walked down to the leaf and litter dump by the woods today. The Giant Knotweed has a forest down there, and I found two nice ferns for my garden on the mounds.

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May 5

Above is a photo of spring disarray. Plants outside to harden off, but still too vulnerable to plant. We are having gray rain now, day after day, and we don’t dare to complain, since it has broken the drought. I feel as though I am living in Seattle.

A dooryard lilac and below, a showy quince.

Below is Euphorbia “Bonfire”. It is in the Dry border. I bought it for its wine dark leaves, but its flowers are startling. I wish it had grape hyacinths growing near it for a touch of blue, but in this garden it blooms alone, since most plants surrounding it are mere clumps, or have yet to break ground.

This would be a plant to consider in a rock garden-

This dank weather is good for transplanting, for cool weather does not strain plants one is trying to establish. I am thinking of the Tall Yellow primrose of waste places and roadsides, Oenothera biennis and the feral Digitalis grandiflora, brought to New England by colonists homesick for their English gardens. I found dozens of the latter in the verge surrounding the tennis courts this spring. The owner had levelled the Tall evil knotweed, and the foxgloves germinated and grew. I have put over a dozen in my sister’s Bow garden. She had two already, bought for ten dollars each at the plant stand at “The Fells” in Sunapee, the once estate of John Hay, Secretary of State for Theodore Roosevelt two years ago.

The primrose has a tap root, but even severed, it perseveres if kept in a pot in the shade and watered. When , after a few weeks to settle down, into the garden it can go. Here it is, below and below that is a tray of collected foxgloves.

Yellow Foxgloves blooming in field- New Boston
Tall Evening Primrose behind Agastache and Rudbeckia

The Yellow Foxglove is more persistent than other foxgloves, and may live beyond two years. The primrose is biennial, and seeds itself everywhere. I dug this years plants from the vegetable garden.

The Preservation of Gardens

According to the Washington Post, some of the members of the American Horticultural Society Board, quietly put George Washington’s River Farm in Alexandria ,Virginia, for sale for 32 million plus, and turned down an offer to buy the place and preserve it made by the County of Fairfax. These soul less, greedy people, members of our Ruling Class, smelled money, and they wanted it as they always do. I hope the light shines in on these people, and they go down in shame when the plans for the theme park or the planned development go public.

A few years back the same kind of humans decided to dig up the Russell Page garden at the Frick Museum in New York to build more museum on top of it. Worthy people stopped it.

I have been thinking about the impermanence of gardens. And I think I am angry when I see how they are bulldozed or turned into buildings named for rich donors. In this country, we will destroy anything if we can turn it into money-

I have several best loved books by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd , the graceful souls who created North Hill garden in Vermont. I would love to see North Hill. I would drive there in June, now that I live back in New England.

But is there a North Hill now? After Wayne Winterrowd died, the house and grounds were sold, and no where on the web can I find out what happened. No local paper announces that it is being reopened. I can find nothing.

Did the couple decide to let the garden go back to woods when they were not around to care for it? Did the Garden Conservancy ever look at preserving it? Did a developer buy it?

I would like to know.

One Day of Spring

And in my garden, there is not much to show for it, though sedums, Silver Mound artemesia, and the “October Skies” aromatic aster are above ground and looking tidy and fresh.

On Wednesday overnight, we had a hard freeze to 27 F. That afternoon, I looked out the window of the place I work, and it was snowing.

But today was sunny and 70, and that meant a plant holiday for all the new plants from Louisiana and California nurseries which had just come out of the box. Out they went, along with the hostages and the minimally content who had spent six months in a south window. And now the plant shuttle begins. Over sixty daytime? Outside! Under 40 at night? Back in.

Wintering over desirable tender plants is easy in theory, but one finds that the tender sub shrubs such as salvias pine for the outside, and if placed near a sunny warm window spend the winter deprived and desperate. Warm enough to grow, but not enough sun to thrive. As is evident in the photo below.

My sister had better luck keeping her salvias in an unheated mudroom that faces east. She did not feed them false hopes, and as the days grew longer, they came out of suspended animation looking optimistic.

I did have plants that did well inside. I made my self a little forest of Nicotianas by pulling up off shoots and replanting them, and now there is no need to buy new ones from the California nurseries.

Others that did well were the Mexican Petunias(Ruellia), the “Diamond Frost” euphorbias, the “Gartenmeister” orange fuschias, the Sinningias, Begonia grandis, and a Cuban Oregano.

Those stunted looking salvias will survive , and if I am lucky they will be larger and more impressive than the cuttings they came as last spring.

My neighbor Dave, who went out trout fishing this morning with his grandson, knocked a bit earlier and handed me two Brook trout for my supper.

I grew up with fisherman brothers. Three of them. They sniffed at Rainbow trout and the Brown trout, accusing the latter of being such a lowlife that it “would live in a sewer”.

The Brook trout they never demeaned.

I never caught a trout. I have caught Walleye in the Connecticut River in my younger years, though later my fishing life was on the Gulf of Mexico. But that is another story-

Weed Robot

No photo with this post, since borrowing pictures from an ad would be copyright infringement, and anyone reading this can look up “Tertill” yourself, though if you do, the ads for this little machine will start following you everywhere around the Internet.

The Saturday Wall Street Journal has inserts devoted to all the stylish, expensive goods and pursuits people can afford after they spend the rest of the week reading about how to make money. I read this past Saturday that chic hostesses, now feeling free to open up the dinner parties again, are matching their party outfits to their tablecloths. I think the only other times this has happened in US history may have been the Depression and Pioneer days, when one bolt of cloth had to go a long away.

Another article, for people bored with, or too good for French Bread frozen pizza, gives a source for ordering “artisanal” pizzas. Frozen ones.

Then, front page on the insert called “Off Duty”, comes “How Does Your Robo Grow”.

Someone has taken the idea of the roving vacuum, and turned it into not only into a lawn mower, but into a weed controller that chops off weeds at ground level as it goes up and down between the pea trellises and wiggles around the perennials. Of course this little “Tertill”, which is what is inventor calls it , requires that the buyer also must buy ” plant guards”, which makes me wonder how smart this $350.00 machine really is.

I have never seen a robot vacuum cleaner, except on TV, and not in an ad. I believe it was in an episode of “Breaking Bad” or maybe “Better Call Saul”, when a room full of stoned, passed out addicts are lying about on the floor of a flop house ,while a poor little cleaner keeps trying to vacuum while bumping into shoes and inert bodies.

So many things could go wrong with this idea, and I think the market for this will be short lived. But perhaps the designers could go in a different direction. And if they did, I might be ready to buy.

If they could remove or disable the weed whacking string, then program the Robo to just go straight and true down the path between the beans and to wander 24 hours around the vegetable garden, just imagine how a fawn, following his mother into the lettuce, would react to meeting a crawling, buzzing nemesis that would smash right into his delicate little legs. And that would just be at night and during the twilight hours.

During the day the Robo could take on the Woodchuck. No more guns. No more electric fences. I would buy it.

And strawberry and blueberry growers! Just forget the netting and the fake owls! Just let the Robo inventor develop a long, slivering Black Racer Robot to go on patrol.

This would be a great idea. I should patent it, make lots of money, and be able to read the Wall Street Journal every day so I can finally say I know what a derivative is, and how I could switch to Bitcoins.

A Small Shrub for a Small Garden

Looking at my small, bare garden beds just before the snows and after the snows are melted away, I realized that my annuals and perennials are, as Russell Page once said, no more than “brightly colored hay”. I had thought by adding a Montauk Daisy or two I might add a little substance, since their stalks persist through winter and resemble a large shrubby sedum. Then, having seen these daisies in bloom on Cape Cod, I have decided they are not the plant for me. Their outsized white daisies and igloo appearance look as though they jumped off a kindergartener’s drawing into the ground.

I needed a focal point, something with substance to place in the corner where two small flower beds meet. A small orange or yellow leaved spirea came to mind, and I was looking at either “Candy Corn” or “Goldflame”. Some gardeners might call spireas “common as dirt”, but in the South they said the same thing about Crape Myrtles, a shrub no one could ever have too many of.

Today- a day after a two inch snow(now melted)- I went down the street to the garden center just to see what might have arrived.

I found this. It was pricey, but it was just what I needed. Small, controllable, and with yellow leaves that would last all season.

This is the “Lemon Candy” Nine Bark , and I think its open and airy form suits this garden bed more than a cushiony , ground hugging spirea. Not to say that if I see a “Candy Corn” at some point, I won’t hesitate to add it in a different bed, perhaps next to the spiky Santolinas that made it through the winter.

Having said disparaging things about the Montauk daisies, I do appreciate that gardeners on the Cape with their wind, sand, and drought may be happy to have these daisies. I think if I had a house on the beach and my garden was a sand dune, the Montauk daisy would look wonderful, looking like an exotic desert plant and having the dunes to itself, its only neighbor the sea side goldenrod and artemesia stelleriana. But I think they would be difficult to place in a flower bed-