Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Pink Obsession

Ok, it is time for me to admit two things...I am a terrible photographer, and I am obsessed with this rose.  The photographer part...well, I can only practice and pray.  The rose part will never be cured.  It is Doctor Willem Van Fleet.
This is one of Grammie's roses from Medford.  They used to be all over the house and they can become enormous.  It will never happen here, the soil is too poor, but in Wiscasset, I had the thing in the ground for two years and it was over the roof...Three storeys at that.  It had a trunk as big around as my wrist, which is admittedly not large...we are such beautiful, willowy people you know!
The scent is very much like cut apples to me.  Shell pink and a once bloomer.  This is the parent plant to New Dawn, that many people grow, but to me, it has more character.  I have a New Dawn.  It is not as vigorous(read that as rampant) and I just cannot warm to the plant.  My mother tried to grow this in northern Maine(she could do it now of course) and it survived as long as she sheltered and babied it, but for the most part it just laid there and looked back at us and said in a very quiet voice:"Are you out of your mind!?"  The one or two little blooms were the highlight of the summer, and I will always remember that.
Lots of sun, lots of manure.  Spray for insects and black spot early as with any rose.  Clean up fallen black spot leaves promptly.  Water often and in good volume.  Fertilize regularly, especially if you do not have manure available.
If you want this in a cold climate, the old remedy was to gather the plant's cames together after trimming them back a bit after frost.  Then excavate the roots a bit on one side, sort of releasing them a bit from the ground.  Lay the entire plant down on the ground, allowing the excavated part to elevate slightly as the woody cames will not want to bend.  Now...Bury the entire plant! Say a prayer.  Sing a few hymns.  Pray again.  Do not let this remain wet for a long time.  Perhaps a cover would be good but plastic may not be best. Dig up and reset the excavated roots as soon as the ground softens.  It can take frost, but it does not like 20F below like we often had.  Do not put a silly white cone over it.  That will just heat and thaw all winter and kill the plant or at least stress it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

White Bearded Iris

It just said "white" on the tag.  I wanted to get a bearded Iris called Merry Christmas.  I had it many years ago, and it had this fabulous white flower, with a scarlet red bee on the falls.(it is the little fuzzy spot on the top of the lower petals)  Wow, was that a knockout.  This one is pretty good, large and snowy white. 
Dig up irises every three or four years, or when they start to get crowded.  Break off all the nice plump and firm rhizomes...don't be afraid, just do it.  Burn the punky or worm riddled ones, and give any excess bits that are not diseased, or older bits to friends. Dust the broken ends with sulfur, and let them dry for an hour or two at least(perhaps even overnight), before replanting them, Then arrange them in triangles with the broken ends toward the center of the triangle,  Do not completely bury them, leave a bit of the rhizome showing above the soil.  Cut the fan of leaves down by about half at a sharp angle to reduce the strain on the Rhizome.
Poison the little bugs(Iris borers) that get to them in April and again in July.  If you do not want to poison them, pinch the leaves between your fingers very early in the season and squeeze, running your pinch upward, crushing anyone inside, or just cut off the leaf that is infected. You can see the trails in the leaves.  The trails look a little watery.
Get rid of old leaves in the fall, and always keep them clean and uncrowded.   


This one is just two years old and it has started having babies.  Dig up older tubers.  Finely grate the root and mix it with vinegar immediately.  You can peel it if you like, but it is not necessary.  You can add some cream to the mixture as well.  Experiment with different vinegars for different flavors,  You can eat the tops too....just nibble one and see what you think.

Lady's Mantle.

See the split in the leaf and how it ruffles up and down.  The lady's head is inside the split, and the ruffly leaf drapes over her tiny shoulders....I imagine.  It has a hairy leaf, and when light rain or dew falls on it, it beads up like a frost all over the surface, often one large, glistening drop accumulating in the center.  What magic!  The flowers are a waste of time.  They are kind of acidy yellow clusters of foam.  It loves shade...What am I thinking?!?!  Both of mine are in the sun.  They will be very pleasant in the new "shade room" I am planting. Damn..I should have done that today instead of working!


Laburnum's seeds are very poisonous but I have had them around the dogs for years and no harm has come.  It can also become very tall and willowy.  This is a great problem and a great asset at the same time.  Young trees can grow so fast that they are not really stable or grabbing the ground.  I reccomend keepng it pruned back till it has been in the ground for a couple of years, unless you give it significant support.  The asset, is the possibility of growing it on the side of a house or on a trellis, like a vine.  You could easily grow five of them...If you can afford such an extravagance... in a circle and weave the branches together to give mutual support to them and also to provide a sort of roof, over a living summer house or gazebo.  Laburnum tunnels are quite common in Europe, there, a metal or sturdy wooden tunnel is constructed with a walkway underneath, perhaps following a border or property line etc....The trees are planted along the route and trained very easily over the structure.  The racemes of yellow hang down through the roof and the leaves give plenty of shade for a nice stroll.  If you are good a propogating cuttings, this may not be so far fetched an idea.  The same is possible with Wisteria.

It likes a little sun and good soil, but it even thrived in the rocky talcum powder, I have it in here, in Mansfield Ma. 


I know it is hard to see.   Next year, I will hold a large sheet behind it.  It is pretty spectacular. It approaches 7 feet tall.  Angelica is one of those herbs that is great tasting, but do not get too much of it.  The last I heard was that it had carcinogenic properties if too much is ingested.  Generally, the stem is candied and used as a sweet licorice like decoration on cakes and other baked goods.  I really do not take the time to actually harvest and candy this, but I love it in the garden.  It is one of those plants that looks like it is from Mars that people always point to first in the garden.  The other is Milk Thistle and Scottish thistle...real standouts in the garden. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Grammie's Violets I waited too long to get a photo of this.  I have two varieties that Grammie had growing in Medford and Northern Maine.  One is a purple seen here in all of it's out of focus splendor, and a white one with little stripes of purple on the throat.  Violets in general have some medicinal properties.  Violet oils and teas are supposed to help with hangovers, and used as gargles can help fight infection.  Also there is speculation that it may have some effect on tumors...there is always some speculation on hebal uses of plants, but it is often best to leave it at speculation.  Made into a salve, the leaves and flowers may help with minor skin eruptions etc.  Perhaps we can get a better picture of these next year.  Grammie used to call these French Violets...little fragrance, and most of the literature on the medicinal qualities actually refer to the wild, sweet violet.  Stay away from the seeds, they won't kill you, but they may make you regret eating them.  These spread like crazy, which I love, but they can get a little out of hand if you are not careful.  The bunnies love the leaves and many of my plants do not have tops on them for long, but then the Scarlet Trumpet Vine is the same way.

Pink Deutzia

Grammie loved Deutzia, and I have one of her's, but it is white.  This came from the nursery, and I would be willing to bet that only an expert would know that they are related.  The flowers are a very soft, shell pink.  This is also very large.  The white one also gets to be a good size, but not like this.  The leaves are also larger and coarser in texture.

Star of Bethlehem

Ornithogalum umbellatum

This is one of Grammie's.  They went a little wild in the grass in Medford.  Not too crazy though.  As you can see by the unweeded Dandilions in the picture, they are not large, but a very pretty early spring flower.  Grasslike foliage.  Related to lilies.

Roses are really me.

I wish I knew more about taking care of them though.  I think that this is an Apothacary rose, but It has to be a baby that showed up in the garden because I cannot positively identify it.


I have dozens of varieties of Hosta in the yard.  I found a place that sold a hundred for a $100.00 so they are everywhere.  Most like shade, but some are good for sun as well.  This is one of Grammie's from Medford and likes shade or sun.  It will have purple spikes of flowers.  A smallish variety.  I will eventually post more of the varieties I have planted.  This one is a new arrival so a bit sparse.

White Japanese Iris

I say that because of the relatively flat lower petals, siberians drop more.  I do have Siberian Iris from Mrs.  Alberta Burrill (My sister's mother-in-law) elsewhere in the yard , but I did not get a bloom this year.  Japanese need the damp to really take off.


When I lived in Houlton, there were millions of these.  Half of the back yard did not get mowed till mid season to allow them to flourish.  They were in great clouds all over the place.  Very pretty.  Some come in pink or white, and I have both, and I just got a lavendar version this year.  They can spread fast if you let them go to seed.

Spirea Bridal wreath

This picture is not a family shrub, but I have other less mature plants that belonged to Grammie in the yard.  An old fashioned favorite.

The Herb Garden

Here is a corner of what will be a real herb garden.  I have the layout, I have a number of plants in, but I will have to be more disciplined with it.  It is unfortunate that the critical weeks for a good garden are also those when I get really busy.  Last year it was my Gall Bladder that slowed me down...It is always something.  The herb garden is square.  It has raised beds bounded by stone and rubble walls.  I have to do some early spring foraging for more stone to cover the broken concrete I used as the core of some of the walls.  In this picture, from right to left are, Wormwood, Angelica, Feverfew and Valerian.  In the background are Catnip and Germander amongst some others I cannot place at the moment. 

White Broom

This struggled for a while.  It really does not like my soil, but then nothing does really, except perhaps for the Hostas.
Once it took hold, It did OK.  This really needs to be staked.  If you don't, it lays itself out into a great mass like a caped woman collapsed in the grass.  If you had a big space this might be fine allowed to sprawl.  It is with plants like this that I wish I had a nice Yew hedge.  I would clip it into a niche and grow this in the space.  Yew makes a nice dark background to diplay a specimen in front of.  The problem is, I am a collector, and have many specimens with no frame.  That will change over the years as the garden develops. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012


I loved this Rhododendron the moment I first saw it.  That must have been in the mid eighties of the last century...strange still to say things like that...The last century...
This is Yaku Princess, the most beautiful of all Rhododendrons.  Not as big and showy as some of the more vulgar old plants, but what a flower.  Pink, yellow and white in the same flower.
Ok, I already mentioned Deutzia.  This is my grandmothers from Medford.  It is very willowy, and the branches cover themselves with tiny white clusters of flowers.  The branches are so willowy, that I can lay one or two on the ground and drop a brick on top of them.  Next year, I have a new plant from each...Time to start thinking of a hedge I think. 

Yellow Broom

What a looker, eh?
There are a number of different colors of broom.  Dark pinks, sulphur yellow with a red spot, white, but this is my favorite I think.  The most common plants are sometimes the most satisfying.  My Ex-Wife had one of these behind a birdbath, and in front of a yew hedge as I mentioned earlier in Fallow Corner(The house name) in Little Bardfield, England.  This baby gets about seven feet tall.  I stake it every year, as it is very leggy, but the heavy snows always flatten it despite my efforts.  I end up pruning huge branches of it off as I try to stand it up again in the spring.  It has never disappointed me though.  It appreciates my efforts despite my failure to achieve the main objective.  some on keeps putting ducks and bunnies in the garden.  I like things to be a bit more high tone, but the kitsch keeps creeping in.

Yellow Broom again.

Another view of the same broom.  Notice, though, the Hostas at it's base.  The one at the left goes about 6 feet across.  I should divide it, but I haven't the heart.