Saturday, January 14, 2023

A Longwood Christmas 2022


They still need to dismantle the Christmas Tree in the Rockefeller Center, New York, so there must be time for one more Christmas post. It's become a tradition for Duane and me to go to Longwood Gardens for their Christmas event. This season we went just a few days before the display ended; Jonathan accompanied us. It was spectacular. As always, my iPhone photographs don't do justice. The article, The Art Behind the Lights, is on Longwood Garden's blog for great pictures and an exciting read. You can see the Rose Arbor lantern there. How could I stand and admire it and not take out my iPhone? 


When we first arrived, it was still light outside, so we strolled up the hill to the Conservatory, planning to enjoy the lights outdoors after dark. The 4.5-acre greenhouse contained stunning plants and displays, as always. The main exhibition hall was a delight of golds and reds reflected in the pool.

Exhibition Hall

My favorite plants were the lilies and orchids. I am not fond of the smell of lilies, but I must say the white ones were gorgeous. Walking down to the orchid house, we passed under living chandeliers that were another favorite, with their white orchids. I know I have a thing for white blooms.


My favorite display of all, however, was the floral shop. The designers of the clothes on the mannequins outdid themselves. And what about that armchair and cushion? Amazing!

The Floral Shop

As darkness fell, we went outdoors. With more than 50,000 lights, they had created a winter wonderland.

The fire pits throughout the gardens were welcoming on the cold night.

It was fun to walk through the tunnel in the meadow garden as the lights constantly changed color.


I was interested in the meadow at night. Small lights highlighted the plants, and the large tree in the distance was spectacular. I felt vindicated in leaving my meadow uncut when the plants died back. At Longwood, they use burning to clear the meadow in spring. I can't do that as my meadow is surrounded by wooden buildings. I will cut it down instead.


The Meadow

The Italian Garden

Walking back to the visitor's center.


We stayed at a nearby hotel overnight before driving Jon home. He returned to college at Pitt the next day, saying our little trip was a fantastic ending to his Christmas vacation. Happy New Year to all my gardening friends!


Pamela x

This morning, I found a snowdrop pushing its way up in the Serenity Garden! Only a gardener would show a poor picture like this, but you understand. I'm so excited about the new gardening season!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Gifts for Gardeners: Beautiful Books

If, like me, you still need to finish your holiday shopping, gardening books are always a good idea for your green-thumb friends or family members. Author friends of mine wrote the four you can see under my tree above. I have attended some of Mary-Kate Mackey's writing workshops. She is very kind and offered to help me with my writing efforts, for which I am grateful. Shelley Cramm chairs a power circle (a committee) to which I belong for GardenComm -- An international organization for garden communicators. All these authors are members. Shelley is a great inspiration to me. Jenny Rose Carey is a fellow Brit and a good friend. I am sure you have heard me talk about her in this blog. I met Raffaele Di Lallo via Zoom at a conference. He also offered to help me. Here are brief reviews of their beautiful and informative books. Click on a title for purchasing information.

*Oh, and I want to share some good news at the end of this posting.*

Brenzel, Kathleen N., and Mackey, Mary-Kate, The Healthy Garden: Simple Steps for a Greener World. Abrams, 2021

The authors arranged the book into three sections: Healthy Garden, Healthy You, and Healthy Planet. In the first section, Healthy Garden, they cover design, planting, and maintenance. They describe the health benefits of gardening under the heading, Healthy You. In the last part, the authors discuss the contributions gardeners make toward the health of our world. The book includes 19 interviews with expert gardeners, plus numerous quotations from experts worldwide.

The Healthy Garden presents a delightful cornucopia of tips and insights for gardeners of all levels of expertise. Beautiful illustrations show gardens in all US growing zones. This book is an excellent addition to any gardener's library.

Carey, Jenny Rose, The Ultimate Flower Gardener's Guide: How to Combine Shape, Color, and Texture to Create the Garden of Your Dreams. Timber Press, 2022

Jenny Rose (right) brought me a copy of her book. We spent a wonderful day talking about all things gardening and garden writing.

The Ultimate Flower Gardener's Guide is Jenny Rose's sunny companion to her first book, Glorious Shade, which I reviewed HERE.

It has five sections: In the first section, Jenny Rose helps us look at individual flowers and truly see them, not just their color but the many shapes and their role in the garden. In the second chapter, Jenny Rose gives the stars of each season that she defines as early to mid-spring, late spring to early summer, high summer, late summer into autumn, and winter. She suggests tasks and activities for each. The following section comprises numerous plant pictures and detailed profiles, including the shape and the plant's role in the garden. This section enables the gardener to make informed choices. The final two chapters describe types of flowerbeds, hardscaping, and various kinds of gardens.


 I am thrilled that the author featured my garden in the section on looking for inspiration.

My Cottage Garden

Beautifully written, and the photographs in the book are gorgeous - the author took most of them. Jenny Rose's title for this book is very appropriate. It is truly the ultimate guide for any gardener to begin a new garden or improve an existing one.

Cramm, Shelley S., My Father is the Gardener: Devotions in Botany and Gardening of the Bible. BRIT Press, 2022


In this devotional, Shelley conveys gardening as a spiritual practice. She takes the title from John 15, where Jesus says,  "I am the true vine, my father is the Gardener." She dedicates one or two chapters to each gardening job, from preparing the soil and planting to propagating and composting, linking tasks to plants of the Bible. Highlighted plants include olive, oak, crown anemone, hyssop, cucumber, and more.


Lovely Illustrations

Shelley has deep knowledge of the Bible and a great deal of botanical learning. Linking these attributes with the beautiful illustrations by Layla Luna, this book is superb. I love it!


Di Lallo, Raffaele, Houseplant Warrior: Seven Keys to Unlocking the Mysteries of Houseplant Care. The Countryman Press, 2022

Raffaele's readers know him from his Instagram page, Ohio Tropics, which has, impressively, over 138,000 followers. The book was a natural step for him to take with its synthesis of Raffaele's knowledge about houseplants. Raffaele answers four basic questions: Which plant is suitable for your environment? How should you take care of them? How do you deal with problems? And how to propagate? 

The book has an easy-to-follow format in which Raffaele unlocks his seven keys to houseplant care. It concludes with a comprehension list of houseplants that includes each plant's description, family, light requirements, appropriate potting mix, watering, propagation, and additional tips. Raffaele illustrates the book with photographs from his extensive plant collection.

Houseplant care is not my forte, so I welcomed this informative book. I have seen an improvement in my small collection since implementing some of Raffaele's advice.

Any or all of these four titles would be great as a gift or for yourself.

*And now for my good news (that you will know if you follow me on FB.)  Timber Press Publishers gave me a book deal for my cottage garden book. I am so excited. You will see my title on future gift lists.*

Wishing you a blessed Christmas, dear gardening friends.


Pamela x

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Friday, November 11, 2022

Six Must-Do Fall Tasks in the Garden

Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)


This fall was the most beautiful in many years. The colors were amazing. Then we had several early frosts that ended the glory, followed by Indian Summer in November. I took the photos in this posting during the warm weather. Somehow, I'm late completing my fall tasks. I need to make a list. It's been a while since I reminded myself and you of the jobs necessary before winter. As the garden and I mature, there are a few changes:

1. Pull Out Annuals and Diseased Plants

After the first killing frost, pull out annuals and plant debris from the kitchen garden. Compost them, unless diseased, such as those with powdery mildew, which should be bagged and placed in the trash. I don't cut down perennials that add interest to the winter landscape and some plants provide seeds for birds, so I leave them standing. For example, goldfinches love the seed heads of purple cone flowers. Many perennials help beneficial insects in winter by providing shelter from their predators. Don't cut back marginally hardy plants like garden mums (Chrysanthemum spp.), as their tops help them survive the cold of winter. There is no need to cut back low-growing evergreen or semi-evergreen perennials such as hardy geraniums, heucheras, hellebores, and moss phlox.

The Kitchen Garden: I've pulled out the zinnias, marigolds, and other annuals and plant debris. Swiss chard is bursting out of the coldframe and parsnips (bottom right) are thriving.


One change this year is the meadow garden. The annual and perennial flowers have gone to seed. After some research, I decided to leave them standing until spring. I plan on cutting them down in March.

Many birds are enjoying seeds in the Meadow Garden,

2. Dig Up Tender Bulbs

Dig up tender bulbs such as cannas, caladiums, dahlias, elephant's ears, gladiolus, calla lily, and tuberous begonias and store them where they will not freeze. I placed mine in individual paper bags, wrote their name on the outside, and put them in a box in the basement. I grow my calla lilies and banana plant in pots. I cut the plants down, and Duane carried them in their containers into the basement.


3. Protect Newly-Planted Shrubs and Trees

Find a place in the garage or basement for shrubs or trees that you are growing in pots, especially Japanese maples (Acer spp.) Sometimes I have plants in their nursery pots, still unplanted, in the fall. For these, I dig holes in the empty vegetable garden beds and heel them in. I protect roses and newly planted shrubs with burlap windbreaks. You can spray the leaves of broadleaf evergreen shrubs with an anti-desiccant to prevent moisture-loss caused by cold weather conditions because when the ground is frozen, evergreens can't replace moisture loss through their leaves. Use mulch, like three to five inches of straw or leaves, to insulate plant roots from severe winter temperatures.


The redtwig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Farrow') doesn't need protection now it is well established. It will need pruning, however.


4. Shred Leaves

 Ecologically speaking, you do not need to rake leaves. Compacted leaves can promote snow mold diseases that damage turf grass. The easiest way to treat leaves on your lawn is to pass over them with a mower a few times to shred them into small pieces. This method will return nitrogen to the soil as the clipped leaves decompose. You can leave them where they fall in the garden so they help insulate plant roots. If you want to remove leaves from your garden, add them to your compost pile rather than bagging them and hauling them away. Or create a separate pile to make leafmould. I contain the leaves in a circle of chicken wire. In the spring, I use them as mulch around my plants. Nowadays, I use less and less wood mulch. Not only to save money but also to prevent the spread of the dreaded jumping worms and their eggs that may be transported in purchased horticultural products.

The maple at the edge of the lower field is always the last to lose its leaves.

The Serenity Garden has the most fallen leaves. Duane will run the mower over them a few times.



5. Plant Bulbs


Bulbs need an extended cold period to grow foliage and bloom. I am planting tulips, new varieties of daffodils, and fritillaria this year. It's now too late to plant container-grown plants as they need time to establish a root system before the ground freezes; in my area, that will probably occur about the middle of December. October is said to be the best time to plant garlic, but with climate change, it may be ok to plant in early November. Garlic needs a cold treatment for two months to induce bulbing. Grow garlic in soil with a pH of 6.2 to 7.0. Space the cloves four to six inches apart and three to four inches deep, with the root side down. Mulch heavily with straw. 


6. Put Away Pots and Garden Ornaments


I like storing planters and garden ornaments where frost and snow won't damage them. I don't always clean the pots until spring, but when I tend them now, I feel an outstanding achievement.

 A few pictures I took during Indian Summer:

Pineapple mint in the herb trug is green and spreading. I will need to control it.
The Woodland Walk. A white birch tree stump always gets an interesting-looking fungus -- on top you can see a squirrel was using the stump to crack wallnuts.
Ferns are still green. The border of lavender smells divine! I hope it survives another winter.
No colorful leaves remain on the trees around the top field, but beautiful still.

I should add a seventh must-do: Make notes about what I need to do differently in spring. I've already begun planning my 2023 garden in my head, but if I write down my ideas, I will likely remember them. 

Enjoy the changing seasons,


Pamela x

Doodles enjoying the fall sunshine

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