Thursday, December 29, 2016


I purchased three amaryllis bulbs for forcing this year. 'Ferrari' opened its first flower on Christmas Day and now has at least six blooms on its two stalks. A third stalk and bud are emerging, promising blooms into February. 'Ferrari' is Holland's finest strain of amaryllis, in my view. My other two amaryllis are slower to develop: 'Clown' has two stalks and will flower next, but 'Picottee' is behind with just one bud. 'Ferrari's' revved up bright red petals, however, make up for any shortcomings in the others.

Amaryllis Hippeastrum 'Ferrari'
'Ferrari' bloomed in time for the holidays

I purchased my three amaryllis online from my favorite nursery, White Flower Farm. You may remember I visited there in July; I blogged about the trip here. I pot my amaryllis bulbs individually in 6-7" pots using a well-drained potting mix. I add water to the mix and stir until it is moist but not soggy. I fill each pot about half full, set the bulb on top and fill in with additional mix. A third of the bulb should be exposed and the top of the mix should be 1/2" below the rim to allow for watering. Firm the mix and water lightly. White Flower Farm provides a layer of decorative Spanish moss to finish off.

Place the pot where the temperature remains above 60 degrees F. Water only when the top inch of the mix is dry or the bulb may rot. Growth usually begins in 2-8 weeks. When growth begins the plants need ample sunshine so I place them in a south-facing window.

In the picture below, you can see how each amaryllis has developed so far:

Left to right 'Picottee', 'Ferrari' and 'Clown.'

I place my amaryllis in a south-facing window until they bloom.

As I don't have blooms on 'Picottee' and 'Clown' I am using the illustrations from the White Flower Farm catalog. Can't wait until mine look like this:

Amaryllis Hippeastrum 'Clown' -- photo White Flower Farm
Amaryllis Hippeastrum 'Picottee' -- Photo White Flower Farm

Once my amaryllis blooms, I take it out of the sunlight and put it in a cooler spot, so the flowers will last longer. My dining-room table is a good place.
Once they bloom, place them away from direct sunlight

I hope to keep my amaryllis for blooming next year. I'll explain how I do it in a future posting.

Did you force bulbs for the holidays?  For tips about forcing amaryllis, hyacinths, paperwhites, daffodils and other bulbs, click on this link to read my article in the Pocono Record newspaper.
Wishing all my gardening friends a happy and healthy 2017,
Pamela x

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Longwood Christmas: The Ultimate Winter Wonderland

We began our Christmas holiday celebrations with a visit to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA where more than half a million lights, beautifully decorated Christmas trees, spectacular fountain shows and 'Victorian' carolers made the night memorable for H.H and me. We strolled through the grounds marveling at the miles of lights illuminating the trees. Our first stop was the open air theater where colorful fountains danced to holiday music with 750 jets of water. But it was a cold night so we were glad to spend most of our visit in Longwood's four acre heated conservatory where 16,000 seasonal plants flourish. Take a tour with us:

I liked the white lights better than the colored ones on the outside trees
A grand piano filled with lights inside the conservatory
The succulent tree was my favorite
Succulents included Aloe, Echevena, Sedum and Kalanchoe
Living wreath of Kalanchoe and spleenwort ferns

The conservatory displayed many out-of-season blossoms ...

Clockwise from top: Hydrangea, roses and orchid

                                                   ... as well as seasonal ones such as amaryllis and poinsettia.

I loved this unusual red and green combination:

From top: Swiss chard, curly parsley and sweet alyssum
The children's Christmas trees

Another favorite of mine was a tree dressed in blues, purples, oranges, yellows and reds. I liked it because the colors were reflected in the plantings at its base.

Plantings reflect the colors of the tree decorations.
Stunning silver and white display

I wish I could show you the waterfalls and various water features in the conservatory, but my poor skills with an iPhone camera didn't do them justice. I especially liked the Cascade Garden with its sheets of water cascading down 'earthen' walls.

Back outside it was colder than ever, so we went to the restaurant for hot chocolate before walking to the Peirce-du Pont House. On the way we were glad to come across one of three fire pits where we could linger to warm ourselves. In the Peirce-du Pont house we greatly enjoyed the 'Victorian' carolers.  Their angelic voices put me in the Christmas mood more than any other event up to that moment.

Our final stop was the Garden Railway. We visited it other years with our grandchildren, but not after dark when it is truly enchanting.

The Garden Railway

We left Longwood Gardens cold but happy, spending the night in a hotel before returning home where our own Christmas tree and holiday decorations greeted us.

Our 2016 Christmas tree
Some of our decorations.

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas,
Pamela x

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Diana's Dozens: My Signature Plants

Woodland Walk

There's nothing blooming in my garden on this snowy December day, but I can get my 'flower fix' at any time by perusing the many photographs I've accumulated over the years. I picked (no pun intended) some special ones for this posting; they are my 'must haves.' Not all typical cottage garden flowers, they are the signature plants I chose for Diana's meme. Diana, who blogs at Elephant's Eye on False Bay in South Africa, challenged her followers to select an essential plant each month for a year. She issued her first 'Dozen for Diana' challenge back in 2012. These are the plants I chose that year:

Clockwise from top right:

- Clematis 'Tie dye'
- Zinnia 'Cut and come again' mix - English bluebell Hyacinthoides non scripta
- Creeping phlox Phlox subulata
- David Austin rose, Rosa 'Lichfield Angel'
- Blossom of the crabapple tree.

Clockwise from top right:

- Milkweed Asclepias
- Daylily Hemerocallis 'Chicago Apache'
- Zebra grass Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'
- Walnut tree (perfect for swinging)
- Purple cone flower Echinacea purpurea
- Hellebore Hellebores 'Ivory Prince'

I enjoyed the activity so much that when Diana moved house and revived the meme for her new garden I decided to add to my list. My 2012 picks were mostly native plants, as you can see; not so this time. Starting in November 2015, I chose the following dozen: two dwarf trees (both weeping), two vegetables, one houseplant, one tropical flower, one native shrub and five perennials (only two of them natives.) Here they are in the order I picked them ...

The ZZ houseplant is a must have for its glossy green leaves and its ability to survive long periods of neglect. The easy ZZ is totally undemanding!

ZZ Plant Zamioculcas Zamifolia

Growing parsnips in the kitchen garden every year, I harvest them in December as an important addition to our Christmas feast. Their delicious flavor when roasted is improved by leaving them in the ground until after a couple of frosts.


I chose my dwarf Norway spruce in January when its evergreen weeping form is a striking presence near the pond. Here it is shown in springtime with new candles  ...

Dwarf weeping Norway spruce Picea abies 'Pendula'

... and today with new snow. See how it's grown!

Norway spruce sheltering hypertufa pots of sedum under its skirt.

I found the first sweet snowdrop on February 4th this year. It really cheered me when nothing else was blooming.

Snowdrop Galanthus

My 'must have' for March was the daffodil. One of its best traits -- the deer doesn't eat it!

Daffodil Narcissus mix

I purchased a weeping cherry to honor my mother when she lived at Cherry Tree Court in England.

Dwarf weeping cherry tree 'Snow fountain' Prunus 'Snofozam'

Brunnera is a reliable native plant for the shade garden. It's tiny blue flowers are like forget-me-nots.

Brunnera Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

I must have mock orange in my garden for it's delightful perfume.

Mock orange Philadelphus

My good friend Katharine gave me hollyhocks from her garden. They are a 'must' in English cottage gardens.

Hollyhock Alcea

I grow beets every year. We love them pickled or roasted. For several years I've been successful at the local fair with them.

Beets -- my first-place entry at the West End Fair
Pickled beets

After a stunning display of canna around my patio this summer, I decided to add them to my 'must have' list. Looking back, I see their tropical beauty doesn't totally fit with my cottage garden style of gardening. Should I grow so many next year? Maybe not ...

Canna lily Canna Striata

I ended with the beautiful native and bee magnet, Anise Hyssop.

Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum

I'm surprised as I review my recent list that there are so few indigenous plants. While there's a place for non-natives in the garden (I'm not a purist by any means), I feel I missed some of my most important blooms. Maybe, I need to pick another dozen?

What are your essential plants?

Pamela x

Crabapple tree

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Winter storm Argos brought the first snow of the season turning my garden into a winter wonderland.  A stunning view from our bedroom window greeted us Sunday morning with the Christmas trees in Kat's field dressed in white. The snow came with a remarkable drop in temperature: from 60F one day to the low 30s the next. We had winterized the pond just in time.

We had plenty of warning of the upcoming change as we watched Argos's crippling progress across the states that lie to our west. We knew we had to tackle that pond asap. As I recorded in this blog previously (click here) we employed a pond specialist to do the work. Now we do it ourselves, but it is a two-day job for us slow old folk. We start by removing about a third of the water and lifting out all the pots of plants. While H.H. works on filters and pumps, I cut down the plants and put the pots in crates. After using a net to clean out as much debris as possible, we lower the crates into the bottom of the pond where they will be protected from freezing. The koi fish are down there, already sleeping in the clay chimney pots that H.H. placed on the floor for that purpose. We replace the extracted water with fresh, then position a net over planks to protect the pond from predators and debris. H.H. switches on a bubbler to keep the water aerated. We forgot to add salt for the health of the fish; we forgot to put the heater in place to ensures there is always a spot that is not frozen over. Today we will add salt, heater and some bacteria formulated for winter ponds -- we forgot that too. This year's pond closing was not without incident. While kneeling on the edge and reaching to position a crate, I lost my balance and fell in -- not completely, but my head and torso were submerged. Yuk!! The trials of a gardener!

We winterized the pond before the first snowflake fell.

We didn't get as much snow as folks further up the Pocono Mountains and across the Northeast: H.H.'s family in Massachusetts had fifteen inches in their backyard. Our snow was wet and heavy; it was pretty with the miniature trees around the pond looking beautiful. Unfortunately, the snow highlighted the work we hadn't done. It completely flattened the zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'.) We should cut it down because next time it may fall in the  pond and become entangled in the net. We noticed garden ornaments and patio furniture we had not put away. Most important, I hadn't mulched the roses and the more recent plant additions. Since beginning to write this posting, we completed most of those tasks. 

The shrubs and miniature trees look pretty in the falling snow
A few red leaves cling to Snow fountain cherry Prunus x 'Snofozam'
Weeping redbud Ceris canadensis 'Lavender Twist'
The sleeping kitchen garden.

I did not go over the bridge into the Woodland Walk since the storm, though I'm sure it's very pretty in there.

In Serenity, the 'former' shade garden, the Naked Lady (my grandson's name for the statue) takes her cold winter bath. A few leaves cling to the 'Golden Mound' spirea behind her. The boxwoods will provide some green all winter.

Add caption

I'm glad I didn't cut down all the perennials. The remaining ones are beautiful in the snow.

Purple cone flower Echinacea purpurea 

I don't think my mini horse Dude will see any hummingbirds now, even if his hair didn't cover his eyes. Dude's thick winter coat makes him look like a black bear.

Dude's thick black coat keeps him warm in the snow.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America. I am so.o.o thankful for my loving family, my wonderful friends, my warm home and of course for my beautiful garden.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Pamela x

Walnut Grove in Winter

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