Friday, November 29, 2019

A Gardener's Gratitude List

The Bluebird of Happiness Visiting my Garden

My article, 'A Gardener's Gratitude List,' was published in the Pocono Record newspaper and in the Penn State Extension newsletter for the Thanksgiving celebration that we enjoyed this week. I can't say often enough how thankful I am for my garden. Here are just six reasons why:

1. The Beauty of the Seasons
I am thankful for year-round color, beginning with spring flowers then summer-blooming perennials. Of course, there is nothing more beautiful than autumn in the Poconos.

Early June in my Cottage Garden

2. Thank a Plant
Plants are important to almost every aspect of our life including breathing and eating. My kitchen garden gives so much; I know my produce is free from chemicals. Fresh vegetable are 50% higher in nutrients than those that travel many miles to the supermarket. 

Bounty from my Kitchen Garden

3. Butterflies, Bees, and Hummingbirds
Besides being grateful for their beauty, I am thankful for the work of pollinators. Furthermore, I am thankful for beneficial insects that protect our vegetables from insect bullies.

Ruby-throated hummingbird on fuschia
Monarch butterfly on milkweed

4. Connecting with Friends and Neighbors
Like most of you, dear gardening friends, I need others who are willing to listen to my tales of garden successes and failures. I am blessed with friends who are prepared to dig beside me when I need help.

Gardeners from the local Women's Club gave my gardens a final grooming before an important event this summer

 5. Health and Exercise
Gardening burns calories, reduces stress, and improves your overall physical and mental well-being. Gardening allows the brain to relax and releases the the tension caused by our addiction to technology.

Gardening is good for your health.

6. Gardens Everywhere
I am thankful for public garden spaces that I visit for new ideas. The Philadelphia area, withing reach of the Poconos, has some of the best botanical gardens in the country.

Chanticleer -- my favorite public garden

These are just six reasons for being thankful. I can think of more, such as how gardening evokes memories, slows me down, and puts worries in perspective. You can read the full article HERE.

What are you thankful for today?
Pamela x

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Monday, November 18, 2019

November Happenings in the Cottage Garden

The Serenity Garden after a killing frost early in November.

I didn't write a 'this month in the garden' blog at the end of October because my computer was in the repair shop, so I decided to post my November one early. In the pictures, taken from the beginning of the month until today, you can see that many greens rapidly became browns. You will also note that I haven't yet finished 'putting the garden to bed' so to speak. I'm trying to accomplish a little each day, but it's difficult because I can't tolerate the extreme cold. The temperature is low enough that our nearby ski slopes have opened much earlier than any other year since their beginning. Nevertheless, I'm battling-on with the fall tasks even though the temperature is more like January. I finished the digging up, but I'm still cleaning up and covering up

Digging up: I dug up the tender bulbs -- cannas and caladium, storing them in the basement with some calla lily bulbs my friend gave me.

Cleaning up: I've cleaned up most of the beds by removing flowers and vegetables with brown and shriveled foliage. I cut down beebalm and phlox with powdery mildew; I burned the diseased plants. Unfortunately, I didn't pull out all the annuals until the ground started to freeze, therefore it was really difficult to get out their roots. I have left some perennials, like purple cone flower, standing.  They will supply seeds for the birds and shelter for insects. I will not cut grasses down until the spring as they provide wonderful winter interest.

Clockwise from top: Hydrangea 'Pinkie Winkie', Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight', Japanase Forest Grass or Hakone Grass Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold.
Duane and I emptied all the pots and hanging baskets. The Boston ferns were the last to go.

 Today, I'm happy to see some green plants remaining in my gardens:

Clockwise from the top: Wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) in the rain garden, rosemary in the herb garden, and Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) in the Cottage Garden

You can see that on each side of the kitchen garden arbor, the clay pots were still waiting to be emptied in early November. You will also note that the corn was still standing in our fields at that time. The farmer didn't harvest until November 9, so I'm not the only person late with my chores.

Early November: corn still standing, pots need emptying, and fading annuals peeping through the fence waiting to be removed.

The farmer harvested late this year
Today, I haven't raked the beds but at least I've removed all the dead stuff. Behind the Kitchen Garden - the fields sans corn.

My husband does the enormous cleanup job of closing the pond. He skims for leaves, removes the aquatic plants and places them in crates on the bottom (I cut them back first.) He switches off the waterfalls and adds a bubbler and a heater. He plans on putting a net under the weeping maple to catch any remaining leaves before they fall in the water.

Top: Dwarf cutleaf maple (Acer palmatum) early in November.  Bottom: today it is shedding its leaves

Cover up: The ground isn't completely frozen so I hope I'm not too late to protect the new shrubs with burlap. That is the next job, hopefully the last one, before the garden sleeps and I relax. I don't want to cover the new red twig dogwoods, so I hope they survive. I bought two to give my garden some color in winter.

Arctic fire™ red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Farrow') living up to its name.

I'm missing the catalpa branch that was positioned outside the garden room window before the tree was removed last month. The birds would rest there while awaiting their turn on the feeder. There are plenty of birds visiting us still, but a photo of a bird on the ground isn't half as interesting as one captured on a branch, in my opinion.

Top: Eastern towhee.   Bottom: American robin
This picture taken last winter is so much more interesting. But the tree is gone, boo.hoo!

My pets may be feeling the cold in spite of their thick, winter coats. Each morning if the sun is shining they find a sunny spot in which to stand while waiting for breakfast.

My pets: Charm the miniature horse, Doodles the Nigerian dwarf goat, and Billy Goat who is an old fellow now.

I'm enjoying blogs of gardeners in Australia and those places where summer is now beginning. It gives me a feeling of warmth on these frigid days. I hope my friends in the Northern hemisphere have successfully put their gardens to bed, preferably in a less tardy fashion than me. I am looking forward to visiting Sarah at Down by the Sea. She will soon be opening her garden gate for a November view in Dorset, England.

Your gardening friend,
Pamela x

Interesting fungi on white pine stump

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Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Two Faces of Mt. Cuba

White Dome® wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Dardom')

Mt. Cuba, one of the many gardens I visited this year, ranks high on my list of ‘best places for native plants.’ It is really two gardens in one, however, with its naturalistic aspect and more formal side. I loaded photographs into Blogger months ago, but I’m glad I didn’t finish the posting as this is an excellent time to share with you, while my computer is at the repair shop. So without too many words (I’m using an iPhone) here is a photographic tour of a truly stunning garden experience.

Tickseed (Coreopsis 'Redshift')
View of the Piedmont
Classical touches in the formal gardens
Wide herbaceous borders and grass allées

The Round Garden with its geometric shapes around a pool, its straight lines, and symmetry is one of Mt. Cuba's formal gardens. Native plants enhance both the formal and informal gardens.

The Round Garden
Native plants, like the chartreuse green amsonia, enhance both formal and naturalistic gardens
Inside the trial garden
One of several sedges being trialed.
Hydrangeas are being trialed in both sun and shade.
Informal 'cottage garden' feel in parts of the trial garden.
Wild ginger (Asarum canadense)

Sweet blue violets covered the woodland floor. Mt. Cuba declared it a featured plant for spring this year. 

Silver gem prostrate blue violet (Viola walteri 'Silver Gem')
At Mt. Cuba it is important to look up and admire the trees.

Spigelia loves moist woods and the banks of streams.

Woodland pinkroot (Spigelia Marilandica)
A peaceful oasis at Mt. Cuba

It’s lovely to look back to early summer on this cold November day — there was a hard frost here this morning. I hope you enjoyed this tour. I’m looking forward to resuming normal blogging when my computer comes back. Love, Pamela x

Tree stumps not cut straight across look more natural

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Do You Want to Hear the Good News First or the Bad News?

October brought good and bad news. I'll start with the bad news: the tree company felled the catalpa that shaded the garden on the west side of the house. This is upsetting on several levels. First, we already lost the silver maple that stood alongside the catalpa tree; together they provided the BEST shade. All the plants that were under their canopies are shade lovers. Second, the silver maple and the catalpa were part of my husband's childhood -- with memories of a hammock and shady places to play in hot summers. Third, the branches of the catalpa framed the garden room's French door.  I would sit in my favorite armchair and take photographs of the birds that rested on the branches as they waited their turn on the bird feeder. I haven't been able to take such natural pictures anywhere else. Yes, the catalpa will be sorely missed.

With the removal of the tree, all shade has gone.

We used the Bartlett tree company; they did a great job from the initial evaluation of the tree by their arborist to the grinding down of the tree stump. We had them grind the silver maple tree stump too. We booked a spider track lift that takes up little space, so Duane had to remove only one panel of fencing. Of course, I photographed the whole procedure:

The silver maple tree was taken down three years ago. They began by reducing the height of its remaining stump.
It's easy to see why the track lift is called a spider.  They removed a dead ash tree first.

The procedure for removing branches was interesting:

1. The man in the bucket wrapped a rope around the branch.
2. He sawed off  the branch
3. Another person on the ground held the end of the rope. They carefully lowered the branch.
They chipped the smaller branches in a machine in a trailer parked on the road.

When they had removed all the branches, they attached a rope to the top of the tree trunk. They cut a wedge out of each side of the trunk before carefully pulling it down to the ground.

Pulling the tree trunk down
When we saw the tree was rotted, we knew we had made the right decision.
The tree company would return a week later to grind down the stumps
Lots of firewood for Duane's brother-in-law's wood-burning stove
SURPRISE: The rope that attached the hammock 60 years ago is embedded in the tree trunk with bark grown around it.
They used a robot-type machine to grind the stumps.

We are so sad to lose our precious tree. We will plant another tree in the spring when we will also decide how to construct some temporary shade in the Serenity Garden.


I received a letter from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society saying they awarded my garden a blue ribbon in their annual garden contest. The contest is open to all types of gardens in three states: Pa, NJ, and DE; there were over 450 entries this year. The judges visited my gardens in July. They awarded points for aesthetic appeal, beauty, innovation, and aesthetic design, plant health, sustainable practices and resourcefulness, edible plants, habitat for pollinators and other plant life, and connections to family, neighbors and/or community. I will receive a 2019 plaque for my garden -- I've received two before -- you can see them in my sidebar. I feel very honored.

This is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I'm linking with the lovely Carol at May Dreams Gardens where you can enjoy gardens from around the world. Below are a few flowers in my garden today. Just a handful that have not succumbed to the first frosts.

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day,
Pamela x

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