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March 2015
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April 2015

The Bee's Knees

Bee's knees 2This morning, the birds are singing, the grass is greening and the scilla are in full, blue bloom. Scilla siberica, to be exact. This little flowering bulb reaches about 3" in height in my garden and it naturalizes beautifully. I have heard the word 'invasive' in reference to scilla but I prefer 'naturalize'. It does spread. That can be a positive. What makes one plant invasive and another a desired naturalizer? Well, this one has beautiful flowers of bright blue and they attract honeybees. Blue pollen It might crowd out grass but in my 'Freedom Lawn' that is just desirable. I do think its best use is as a naturalized ground cover. There is nothing as blue as the electric, black light blue of the scilla flower en masse. It blooms about the time of the daffodils and what could be better than that complement of yellow to enrich the tone of the blue or vice versa? Blithewold scilla and daffodilsScilla is planted in the fall. Plan now to order some if you want your own carpet of blue. This is not a native bulb but then few are native to the USA. It is very hardy and it grows in Zones 4-8. The bulb contains a toxic substance so the deer do not eat it. That is a win around here. The bees however do love it. This plant is the first to bloom on which I see the honeybees. And, the honeybees have blue knees. The Bee's KneesBlue knees on the honeybees is a sight to see. They work the flowers as bees do and they end up with a nice cap of blue on their pollen baskets. I have long noticed the blue pollen but it was Kris Green, Interpretive Horticulurist and blog writer at Blithewold, who told me to look for the blue bee's knees. Persistence paid off. Yesterday was warm and windy and the bees were busy...well one bee was busy. Pollen on beeI spent quite a while trying to get a shot of this busy bee. They move quickly from flower to flower wasting no time at all. I guess that is the definition of 'busy'. On my part, watching the bee was time well spent. I think there might be a children's story in that title, The Bee's Knees, what do you think? 

 


The Week in Review

CrocusThe snow has left the gardens but there are still a couple of mounds in the drive from the winter snowplowing. No matter since now the garden work can begin. The crocus are up and taking turns debuting their outfits. Last snowdropsThe snowdrops have almost finished blooming which means that in spite of all the raking to be done, they need to be moved around right after the flowers fade. I have found that this is an easy transition time for them and they spread quite readily when given a helping hand. I just lift the larger clumps and carefully pull apart the bulbs. It is then an easy matter to pop them into the empty garden spots. Someday there will be rivers and pools of snowdrops. It is coming. Winter aconite2The winter aconites are doing a bit of yoga with this salute to the sun. Theirs is the first bright yellow to appear, usually well before the daffodils which are just beginning to show color here  I do see a bit of the tete a tete flowers pushing through one of the fallen,  yet to be cut back, grasses. One expects bulbs in the spring but the first of the herbaceous perennials to bloom are the hellebores. This hellebore is a lovely rose veined variety, Helleborus orientalis 'Apricot Blush'Hellebore2I do have some of the dark flowered hellebores but I find that they are lost among the richness of the soil so it will be these lighter ones which I will plant from now on. In the middle of the week I discovered that I am not the only one who loves the Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin'. Katherine H.
Her cool, blue beauty attracted another admirer. In the dark of night either the deer or the rabbits decided to eat the blooms. The deer spray is sitting right there on the step. Live and learn. At least I got a couple of days of joy from them. Another task which has been checked off the spring list is that of starting the tomato seeds.
 I know it seems late since so many of you are in the warmth already but here it will take six weeks to get them to just the right size so they suffer no root stifling. I have planted them early in the past and have found that to do so results in the extra step of potting them on to a larger sized container. April 15th is the target date for planting the seeds here. I was one day off. The seedlings will be planted in the garden at the end of May. Tomatoes love warm soil so there is no use planting them any earlier. One other task which lightens the load for this gardener is the annual burning of the grasses. Grass burning 1I can only really burn these by the fishpond as they are well away from other plantings. Usually this is done around St. Patrick's Day but this year I could not even get near them and they were lying under the snow. You can see how flat they are. These are Miscanthus s. 'Gracillimus' and Miscanthus sinenesis var. purpurascens. They are in excess of six feet tall by the time the fall plumes appear.Grass Burning 2I did get out the hose and the rake just in case there were any escaping embers but from start to finish, the grasses burn hot in under a minute. The ash sweetens the soil and the area is transformed. Grass burning 3The fish didn't seem to mind at all. It was a pretty good week. I hope yours was filled with spring blooms and enjoyable garden tasks.


A Walk in the Garden at Follers Manor

Follers-ChairsOn this cool spring day in New England, I invite you to travel with me to a garden which overlooks the village of Alfriston in the Cuckmere Valley located in the eastern portion of the South Downs in Great Britain. I had the great fortune to visit this garden in the summer of '13. It was one of many lovely gardens which I saw that trip. It is an exceptional garden. Designed by the noted Landscape Architect, Ian Kitson, and owned by Anne & Geoff Shaw it is a garden which has been sculpted out of the hillside. It has a maturity which belies its youth. Follers More FieldsThe Shaw's purchased the rundown house in 2006 and renovated it. The garden was developed and planted through 2012 when a copse of trees was added for the Queen's Jubilee. Don't you just love the Brits? They so embrace a celebration. The Shaws had two directives for the architect. One was to make the garden wildlife friendly and the other was that it should be colorful. The final garden, if a garden is ever final, is so much more than those two components. Follers-open fieldThe approach is breathtaking. The walk from the parking area, down the lane to the drive was on an incline but there was no watching one's feet.  Rolling fields laced with wildflowers framed the view of the valley along the lane.Follers-Scenic view Trees and shrubs frame the view from the lower part of the garden. Follers path to the gardenOnce through the small courtyard and down a series of steps, much of the garden is revealed. Follers-sunk patioA nautilus shaped sunken patio with a limestone base is one of the focal points of the garden. Seated in this garden, the breeze is reduced but the view is not. Follers-sitting areaThis is a patio with sections which contain quiet, gentle spots for conversation, cakes, and company. Follers sinuous sedumsThe sinuous walls are made of flint and the top of the wall is planted with sedums and sempervivums. Follers-sunken patioLow growing campanula was in bloom at the time of our visit and it formed purple puddles surrounding the seating area. There is much to see both up close and in the distance. Follers Manor HouseFollowing the curve of the patio a lower natural pool invites one down the path to yet another seating area which looks back toward the house and the pond. Follers-Chairs fieldI would bet that the lounge chairs are often turned around to take in the view of the valley. Who could resist? On one side of the pond garden there is a meadow garden. Follers-DaisiesAlmost every garden I saw on this trip included a meadow garden. They are all the rage and they are a wildlife magnet. Bees and butterflies joined us on our walk through this garden and many of our group paused to sit on this inviting bench. There is a walkway winding through the daisies but it is cleverly hidden by the flowers and meadow grasses. Follers-Lower Garden On the other side of the naturalistic pond, herbaceous borders lead the way to the bottom of the property. This bench provides yet another opportunity to sit and enjoy the shady beauty of the lower garden. Follers-veggiesAt the bottom of the garden, the view is once more revealed just over the raised vegetable beds. To feed the gardens, there are, of course, composting bins.Follers-Compost BinsTucked off in the corner these were filled to overflowing.
Follers shady walk backThe garden paths loop around the garden from top to bottom so there is never a need to retrace one's steps although it was necessary to do so in order to truly appreciate the paths, plantings and views throughout this space.
Follers right pond viewThe picture above is of the right side of the pond garden. This is a garden for strolling, sitting and enjoying the views. It was not easy to leave it. Follers waterlilyMany thanks to Anne and Geoff Shaw for opening their garden to us. It is on the NGS register and is open to the public certain days of the year. You can check here for more information on open dates. I do hope you have the opportunity to someday see this garden on your own.