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.

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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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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fall Planting in the Cottage Garden

When the farmer harvests the corn from our fields, as he did last week, I know the garden season is over. So why am I still planting -- and not just bulbs? It's because of unseasonably warm weather (in spite of a couple of frosts) that lulled me into thinking there's plenty of time remaining to put the garden to bed and redesign parts of the cottage garden.

I started with the border along the kitchen garden fence where, three years ago, I planted a giant fleece flower Persicaria polymorpha. I was told it was goat's beard Aruncus dioicus, a native plant that I was happy to have in my garden. Unfortunately, I didn't do my homework. When the plant bloomed for the first time, I thought it looked like an enormous astilbe and was still happy with my choice, although I didn't like how the white blooms turned brown after a while. Over the next couple of years the plant became huge. This year the blooms began to emit a horrible smell. I finally did my research and discovered my mistake. The plant, giant fleece flower, had to go.

Stinky fleece flower at end of fence -- top left -- summer 2016.
Fleece flower's first year top right. Pics from both sides of the fence.

By September I was unhappy with that whole border. It became a tangled mess with self-seeded annuals as well as spreading perennials. They crowded out the dear lupines I planted from seed that my friend Katharine gave me in the springtime. So I designed a new look.

End of summer 2016 -- border a mess of cleome, morning glory and fleece flower.

My H.H. dug out the offending shrub. It's enormous roots were deep so I may be dealing with the plant for years to come although H.H. thinks he removed all of it. I pulled out the cleome and morning glory, determined not to allow them to 'take over' ever again (wish me luck.) I dug out some purple cone flower and some yarrow Archillea ptarmica 'The Pearl.' Now I could see that some of the lupines had survived.

After much thought, I ordered eryngium plants from White Flower Farm and bare-root delphinium from Bulbs Direct. I had put both on my wish list when I saw them in the Lloyd border at White Flower Farm this summer. Of course, I'm not expecting mine to look like the catalog pictures (below) the first year.

Miss Wilmott's Ghost Eryngium giganteum (Photo White Flower Farms)
Delphinium 'Pacific Giants' (Photo Bulbs Direct)

I made changes in the main cottage garden border, too. I feel guilty about owning butterfly bush Buddleia since it is on the PA watch list of invasive plants. I was fortunate this summer to hear Doug Tallamy speak at the Master Gardeners' Annual Conference. Tallamy wrote a wonderful book Bringing Nature Home. He gives the hard truth about butterfly bush: Not only is it invasive, crowding out beneficial native plants, but it doesn't really benefit butterflies because it provides only nectar -- meeting just 25% of a butterfly's needs. I decided to remove one of my two buddleia (well, it's a start.) I replaced it with a purple smokebush. I know smokebush isn't native, so I added more butterfly weed for the butterflies in addition to the milkweed and Joe-pye weed I have in several spots. I chose smokebush after seeing it at White Flower Farm (also in the Lloyed border) where I fell in love with its color and form. It has the advantages of being resistant to deer, drought and clay-soil. 

My new purple smokebush Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Next, I decided to replace a bland-looking spirea with a potentilla. The potentilla arrived but it's a challenge to take out the enormous spirea which spans the bed. We may need a backhoe to finish the job. I always wanted a potentilla as it was one of my mother's favorite shrubs. She had one with yellow blooms in her front garden; I chose the same color. With yarrow on either side, there will be a mass of yellow, a color I have little of in my summer garden.

Spirea between peony and yarrow in the cottage garden
Buttercup Shrub Potentilla fruticosa 'Gold Drop' Photo Nature Hills Nursery

So I'm still planting in November, the potentilla being the last job. I'm wondering how all the changes will look next summer.  Although the weather is milder than normal, I have nothing blooming in my garden today. However, there is interesting foliage color to enjoy and it's still warm enough to work outside.

Gold leaves on the weeping cherry, silver lambs' ears and red Japanese maple

Whatever the season where you live, dear friends, enjoy your garden.
Pamela x

Goodbye to the pink spirea

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