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Tuesday, December 1, 2009


One of my favorite photos is this one, taken in July of 2008 at the Herrenhausen Gardens in Hannover Germany. It was so far away from home and yet, at the same time, the gardens felt as if they could have been right here on Long Island.

In the center left of the photo is a large stand of Kniphofia, more commonly known as red hot pokers. While these plants are quite popular in England (and possibly Germany), they seem to be ignored by gardeners here in the USA.

Perhaps the problem is that most American gardeners are only familiar with the red hot variety, that is, the one with an orangish red tip and a yellow base. Yet this is only one of the colors available in this plant family.

This photo is an old scanned slide but it was taken in my garden and I've had this "red hot" Kniphofia for many years now.

Another Kniphofia that I've had for years (another oldie but goodie from Franks Nursery) is this lovely chartreuse variety. If it has a name, I don't have it labled in the garden. One thing I can tell you though is that the color here is not that far off, it truly is a chartreusse bloom.

True yellow Kniphofias are not difficult to find. I had this one in my garden for 4 or 5 years before it suddenly disappeared.

The same goes for this amazing Apricot variety. It was spectacular here for at least 4 years and then POOF it was gone. It makes me wonder if Kniphofias are short lived perennials. If that is the case then the solution is to divide them before their fourth year, something I will keep in mind in the future.

Doing some research online, I've found some interesting information on these plants. While I knew they needed good drainage, much to my surprise I read that you will increase your chance of overwintering them by tying the foliage together for the winter.

In past years I've noticed that when I cleaned around the Kniphofias in the spring that you could easily tug divisions out of the ground, as if they had rotted right at the soil level. Apparently by tying the foliage together, you keep the water and ice from getting inside that crown. Very interesting...

Anyway, my recommendation to all of you? Try this beauty in a full sun location. I don't think you'll be sorry you did!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heuchera 'Caramel'

Today I only took five photos, I hadn't planned on taking any though so I guess I'm ahead of the game.

Walking up my driveway, I noticed how beautiful Heuchera 'Caramel' still looked. Well, maybe it's not as beautiful as it looks in May but remember, it's mid November!

I have 'Caramel' in several locations, this particular plant was the first one I had purchased and it's been in the garden for two full seasons. Hands down it's my favorite Heuchera so far.

Those of you who have been regular readers here or have visited my garden know how much I love this plant. Here's a photo taken back on May 24th. As you can see, it was pretty stunning back then too.

Just to the left of 'Caramel' is the hardy Geranium 'Katherine Adele'. Scroll back up and you'll see that the foliage is still beautiful too.

No wonder I chose a photo of this combination for my webpage.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Too soft hearted

This morning when I was photographing my troughs (not bad looking for mid November!) I noticed a recurring theme. Volunteers.

Volunteer plants are seedlings that pop up in your garden, whether you planted them or not.

In this pot you can see the volunteer Digitalis (Fox Glove) seedlings at the back. You can bet I didn't put them there but of course I don't have the heart to pull them. If they are still there come spring I will wiggle them out and give them a new home (maybe to you???).

How's this for volunteering! These Verbascum bombyciferum seedlings have volunteered to totally take over the large concrete planter. I doubt that the Sempervivum 'Oddity' that's planted in there is too happy about this new neighbor but soft hearted as I am, I leave these too until spring.

This trough has been one of my favorites. It won a blue ribbon at our flower show this past June and will soon be moving to a new home. My friend Kim asked me to donate one of my troughs for a wonderful charity called "Hope through Health". So this lovely trough will be on the raffle table this coming Saturday night. I'm so excited for it!

The other day when I showed Kim the trough, I saw these little seedlings growing in it. I think they are Isolepsis seedlings (Fiber-optic grass) and if I get the chance I'm going to wiggle them out and pot them up. Isolepsis isn't always hardy here so I'd bring these babies in and try to overwinter them on my super-crowded windowsill.

Off to rake some leaves and then to work.

Happy Monday! It's my favorite day of the week :-)

Friday, November 6, 2009

On the Road

This morning I'm packing up my gear and heading west. I'm off to Pittsburgh where I will be speaking to a group of collectors. Daylily collectors, Hosta collectors, Iris collectors and Daffodil collectors too.

I wonder if when I'm done there if they will also be Sedum and Succulent collectors :-)

Got my program all set on power point but I do have to admit to being a bit nervous about that. Just not used to relying on my laptop in a public forum. Cross your fingers for me!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall experiments

If you live on Long Island (just east of New York city) or in a similar zone, you are probably in the midst of fall clean-up.

With 1.3 acres here at Old Country Gardens, it's going to take me right through to New Years to get the garden closed up. Some chores though need to be done sooner than that.

One of my experiments this year was to plant Hosta, Ivy and Lamiastrum in the two hanging baskets at the front of my breezeway. To be honest, I've had prettier plantings in there but these required little care at all and since I had an over-abundance of these plants, they cost me nothing to pot up. It will be interesting to see if these plants start growing again in the spring.

The breezeway still looks summery but even on warmer days I'd prefer to sit out in the sunshine now, not here in the shade. In the next week or two I'll have to pack up the cushions. Another thing I need to do (maybe later today) is take cuttings from my tender plants to bring inside.

This is also the first time I've ever grown Colocasia (Elephant ears) thanks to my neighbor Cynthia. I'm going bring this whole pot into my garage with the Phormium too and see if they'll overwinter in there.

So many things still to try. Tomorrow's my first day working at J.Crew. That's what I love about life, always another adventure waiting around the bend!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Late October Blooms

Well, I certainly can't say this is a very attractive photo. Still, it does show something that's blooming in my garden today, October 25th. A beautiful single, white Anemone japonica, I believe the variety is 'Honorine Jobert'.

One consideration I should have had was to place very late blooming perennials in spots that would be more noticeable. So take note from my mistake, this beauty is in the back yard well behind the pool and I don't spend much time back there at all this time of year.

Here's a pretty pass-along Chrysanthemum given to me by my friend Gianna. It's name is long lost but it's beauty still shines. Thankfully I had a bit more forethought with this one and there's a clump along my driveway.

Of course the grasses are blooming like crazy. Today we had the most wonderful fall weather, tons of sunshine and the birds were everywhere. After yesterday's storm the ground was littered with branches and leaves and I spent at least 8 hours outside raking and cleaning.

Can't say my arms, shoulders or back are feeling that great. To tell the truth though, my hands hurt the worst. I'm not looking forward to doing the entire fall clean-up on my own. Believe it or not, I got my 16 year old daughter to help rake today! I don't think she's ever held a rake before so I was truly grateful for her help.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Time flies...

These photos were taken three years ago...not in some island resort, just a few miles away from here at Sunken Meadow State Park here on Long Island. They were taken at the end of September so the birds that were in these photos should be at the same stage now.

Tomorrow morning I am meeting a friend for my first spin class, I'm working on the "goodbye butt"...don't's a girl thing :-)

Anyway, after the class I hope to get to stop at the park and take a few shots.

I do hope the cormorants will be there, I've revisited this spot several times during other seasons but have never seen them there again. Perhaps they are migrating?

If nothing else, I will enjoy the quiet time, back to nature, a place I've missed in the past few hectic weeks.

Even if the birds aren't there it should be stunning, don't you think so?


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Butterfly kisses

Yesterday I was extremely lucky to come home and notice quite a few Monarch Butterflies flitting about my Buddleias (butterfly bushes). I ran inside and grabbed my camera to try to take a few shots.

When I first came up to the bush, the butterflies flew away but almost instantly they got used to my standing there and as long as I moved slowly, I was able to photograph them.

One butterfly caught my eye right away. The interior section of the pattern on it's wings was a blur. I just couldn't get my eyes to focus on this spot. How cool is that?

Even in this shot where you can clearly see the antennae, you can't get a clear image of the spot where the body meets the wings.

I do so love taking photos of butterflies. They are just so ethereal and graceful.

Today is nicely overcast so I will head out there and try for more photos.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hosta in the fall

Walk around your garden today and look at your hosta. It's amazing how different they look in the fall. Half of mine are ratty, covered with holes, ripped foliage and ready to be put down for the winter.

Looking carefully though there are still a few stellar performers in the garden. I believe this variety is 'Fresh', certainly well named! Obviously 'Fresh' is not only slug proof but it's not one that burns up in the late summer. I'll also add that 'Fresh' is in a part of the garden that has dry, root bound, crappy soil.

I know it's hard to find motivation to take ugly photos but maybe it would be a good idea to go around the garden now and document the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

I'll be out there looking closely as I divide Hosta and Daylilies today. It will also be the last day I'm officially open for sales. Next Saturday is homecoming at Walt Whitman High School so I'll be busy walking in the parade.

If you have a Hosta that looks good in your garden right now, let me know the variety!


Friday, September 18, 2009

The 'Pearl'

There's a plant in my shade bed that is just coming into full bloom. Earlier in the year I wrote a post about it, I don't know what it is (nor can I find the post but it's starting out as one of those days...).

My guess has always been that this plant is part of the Cimicifuga family which has for some reason be renamed as the Actea family.

It seeds around nicely and the seedlings don't seem to mind being transplanted. (I've still got more to share.)

Here you can see the whole plant. Although I tried a number of times, my camera just doesn't want to focus on the white blooms. The leaves aren't as finely cut as the Cimicifugas I see online or for sale. As a mature plant it gets quite large. A nice bonus is that the leaves don't seem to be affected by the slugs that have been ravishing this part of the garden.

There is a Cimicifuga named 'White Pearl'. I know that this plant is not that specific hybrid because these are all seedlings but it sure looks quite a bit like a strand of white pearls.

Out in front of my house I have Cimicifuga 'James Compton' which I bought last year. It caught my attention because of it's dark, almost purple foliage. As you can see here, the bloom is very similar but the buds are dark purple.

If I could bring this to you in smell-a-vision you would just swoon because the scent is heavenly! I never would have expected this simple flower to have such a strong smell and at first I looked around to see what else was blooming. As an afterthough, I think I'll cut a bloom and bring it inside to see how long the perfume lasts.

Here you can see the foliage of 'James Compton' when I bought it. So far I can't say the foliage has done much in the garden, I couldn't get a single decent shot of it yesterday and will try again today. As with most purple foliage plants, it's lost it's coloration this late in the season and now just appears to be dark green with hints of purple (squint hard and you might see it).

If you decide to plant this in your garden I would suggest buying 3 or 5 and planting them as a group unless you are a very patient gardener.

In truth I did have a second photo showing this foliage but there wasn't the adorable face peeping out from behind. Calie-the-wonderdoodle had to sneak her way into my photo shoot that day. It was a pretty amazing feat for this big lumbering 70 pound dog to slip into that corner and appear so innocent.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lecture in Douglaston

This afternoon I'll be lecturing in Douglaston to the Douglaston Garden Club. I just love lecture days!!! The program they booked is "Garden Junque" and it's one of my all time favorite programs. It's just such a fun program because it's chock full of all kinds of things people use to accent their gardens such as the blue bowling ball in this photo.

I have a huge collection of slides and digital images showing various garden accents. This potted man was the inspiration that had me make my own potted lady (she's a little sad right now and understandably camera shy).

As I posted on my other blog, there are lots of great ideas for garden seating areas, furniture, walkways and more. This program makes me itch to go on another garden tour. Most of my photos have come from convention garden tours, I haven't been on one in three years now. Maybe next year I'll be able to fit a few into my schedule.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The last Hoorah

What a great weekend for gardening. Even though yesterday was a wet, drizzly day, I spent hours outside weeding the front garden. It was perfect conditions to take out perennial seedlings and pot them up. How cool is this double Platycodon seedling?

I have a small double Platycodon plant in the same area, it never grew as vigorously as the single variety but it has returned reliably for at least 5 years now. This seedling was found a few feet away.

Platycodon are hard to transplant or divide because of their tap root. A tap root is a long single carrot-like root. When dividing Platycodon, I get my long perennial shovel and make sure I dig very deep before trying to pry the plant out of the ground.

The hardy Begonias are still blooming like mad. Not too many seed pods yet, they are even prettier than the blooms! I potted up a few of them, they don't seem to mind being moved at all so I will try to get a few more out of the ground in the next day or two.

Besides these beauties I've been potting up a few Corydalis and Digitalis (fox gloves). This coming Saturday will be my last hoorah. A big plant sale day and then it's time to close for the season. On Friday I will be digging and dividing Hosta like crazy. Stop by in the afternoon if you want to see how it's done.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Trial vs Display Gardens

Yesterday, after finishing a horticulture course (you can read more about it at my Old Country Gardens blog) a few fellow club members and I headed over to Eisenhower Park. We decided to visit the trial gardens that are planted there outside the Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Most people don't realize there is a vast difference between a "trial" garden and a "display" garden. In a trial garden you will often find new plant material or even unregistered (unnamed) seedlings of plants. There are also often rules that state the plant material cannot be given special attention (such as extra fertilizers or pinching or staking).

Trial gardens are often unattractive, plants are planted in rows, right next to something that does not combine well. But, a trial garden is well worth your time to visit because it is a learning tool.

The Celosia 'Fresh Look Gold' in the top photo was the best looking plant in the All America Selections trial area.

This fall blooming Allium was in the herb garden but I did not see a cultivar name.

The best garden by far (in my opinion) was the butterfly garden. It was incredibly full and lush. My only regret was that I could not find labels with plant names. That's not to say there weren't labels there, it's totally possibly that at the base of the plants there were small labels but none were visible to the eye and with the multitude of pollinating insects that were on these plants, I had no intention of disturbing anything.

This soft orange Agastache (hyssop) had the most delicious scented foliage. Kim and I really liked the color too, especially against the lavender blues that were in the garden. I'm pretty sure I've seen this plant for sale around here under the name 'Apricot Sprite'. It's not a perennial Agastache in our zone.

Here's one landscape shot of the butterfly garden. The tall lavender Verbena bonariensis was just all over the place, waving in and out with the strong gusts of wind. The wind was actually making it quite difficult to get clear photos.

Another landscape shot, this one has a nice Sedum in the foreground. If you've been reading my blogs for any amount of time you know I love Sedum. This time of year they really put on a show and who could complain about something this lovely that blooms in September?

I couldn't help trying to get a close up of the orange bloom that had snuck it's way into a sea of Rudbeckia.

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed) has finished blooming and now it's incredible seed pods are popping open. There's three or four Asclepias growing here in my garden but for some reason I have no seed pods this year. I do think it's because there were lots of insects munching on the plants but hey, that's why I grow them!

Isn't it cool how this single fluffy seed pod was caught up on a Verbena bloom? It made me want to take a handful of seeds, blow them into the air and make a wish.

Whoa, just heard a big rumble of thunder and it's starting to pour. Yesterday when I came home I found my entire patio table in my swimming pool. It still had the 9' umbrella with cast iron base attached. The umbrella spokes were shattered and one spoke had punctured one of my new lounge chairs. What a bummer...and what a hard time I had getting it out of the pool without getting into that freezing cold water myself!

I'm feeling a cleaning frenzy come upon me. Rare as these are, I'd better take advantage of it while the mood strikes me. Hope I can remember where my vacuum cleaner is......

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Today's Combinations

Today was a bit bright for photos but I keep pushing myself to collect more late summer/early fall images. Once the fall really comes upon us it's easy to be inspired to shoot those amazing colors but is always seems that this time of year I tend to neglect my photography.

This is the standard view up one side of my driveway bed. I meant to take the photo from the second floor window for more depth. Hopefully I will remember to do so tomorrow.

I really like this combination of the bright yellow Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' and the variegated Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo (variegated dogwood shrub).

I've shown photos earlier of the hardy begonias in my garden. This one spot has a white variety that I bought many years ago. Unfortunately it is not at all as vigorous as the pink variety and all I have is this little piece. I will have to watch carefully that the Sedums don't bulk up too much and crowd it out.

Here's a nice little corner. Lots of pretty foliage, Sedum 'Frosty Morn' is just about to come in to bloom and the amazing chartreuse Liriope "Pee dee gold" is also just sending up it's simple flowers. If you ever see this Liriope for sale, grab it! I've only seen it once and never have I seen it in any other garden other than mine.

Just so you can see how lovely this Liriope is, I zoomed in a bit closer. Here you can see it paired with Ajuga 'Burgandy Glow', one of my most favorite planned combinations this year.

Remember, don't stop taking those pictures!