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May 2010

Mayapples and Lady's Slipper

DSC_0033Spring just isn't complete without the umbrella foliage of the Mayapple,Podophyllum peltatum, and its' proportionately huge bloom under the parasol.   DSC_0019
It is a lovely spring flower and if that large flower isn't enough, this herbaceous perennial produces a fruit in late summer which is the size of a large crabapple.  I have a small colony of these plants in the woods and in looking up information on the 'apples', it was stated that they are edible in small amounts but toxic in large amounts.  I don't know about you but if they contain a toxic substance which, in this case is called podophyllotoxin, I will forage for food in my refrigerator.   DSC_0039
The other woodland plant which is blooming now and not in abundance, is the pink lady's slipper.  I found many blind leaves with no flowers and only two flowering plants.  I hope that the leaves are just immature plants which will produce flowers in the future.  For now, I am content with this odd but exotic looking wild orchid, the Cypripedium acaule.  DSC_0038
You can read more about this plant from the expert, here.

Trade Secrets-Antiques and rare plants

Like champagne and strawberries, rare plants, garden antiques, and garden accessories satiate the appetite.  It was with a sense of adventure and a penchant for both plants and plant accessories that my gardening and golfing friend, Lois, garden pictured here, and I set off on the two and a half hour trek to the hills of western CT to check out this annual event.

Trade Secrets is an event which began ten years ago and combines the wares of over fifty vendors. Each vendor sells antique garden ornaments or plants or a combination of both.  The entry fee of $35.00 is reflective of the upscale surrounding community but it goes to support the local Women Support Services which makes it a great charitable event.  IMG_1956
This event is held at Lionrock Farm, a  private property which sits atop one of the many hills in this part of Connecticut. IMG_1963
  The day was bright, windy, and a bit chilly but it was warm in the sunshine and inside this beautiful barn  IMG_1958
which housed the food and other vendors.  Check out the chandelier in the above picture.  It looks as though it was made from wagon wheel straps.  Oh, and that is my posing friend, Lois.  She is always smiling.  This little log cabin IMG_1960
is a great idea for keeping the kids busy building on a rainy day.  Start stockpiling those sticks.  IMG_1927
The landscaping around this property is elegant and minimalist.  The existing trees have been used as a foundation for the ribbon beds of perennials planted around them. IMG_1930
  There was a great variety of product at this event.  Everything from carved critters, cast iron urns,  IMG_1925 

great tables and chairs, IMG_1912

through the ultimate IMG_1940
picnic ware.   Pottery IMG_1947
and statuary IMG_1948
were also in abundance.  As for rare plants, there were vendors with many plants and well grown plants. IMG_1922
  As far as rare plants, that term is relative when plant lovers gather.  I did find a couple vendors with rare plants.  Avant Gardens and  Opus Nursery, had plants which required tag reading.  That means rare to me.  As Lois and I walked among the vendors we discovered visual treats at every turn.  These IMG_1938
cloches glowed in the reflected bright light of the day and these steel garden ornaments IMG_1964
were well set with their blue sky backdrop.   IMG_1935
  The highlight of my trip was meeting Guy Wolff.  His pottery is well know in the Northeast.  I always admire his pottery for its' simplicity of line and beautiful patina.   I happened to notice this forcing jar which is a well known pot type in Europe and less well known here.  Rhubarb is one of the plants which is covered with this and then the top removed so that it grows on a bit faster.  Guy explained that this pot was a bit small for rhubarb but would be used to attain etiolated asparagus or perhaps endive.  He graciously posed with the pot.   It did not come home with me but I am saving my pennies for a future purchase.   IMG_1950

This was a very well run event.  Once something was purchased, the item was numbered and sent to a pick up area.  You could either drive through the area to pick up your treasures or, in our case since we purchased just a few small plants, we picked them up before heading to the parking area.  This was an enjoyable morning spent in the company of plant lovers.  Will I go back?  Maybe in a few years.  IMG_1962
I need to see how they change the urn plantings.


Cedar apple rust

In the past week some warm and wet days occurred  and in addition to encouraging the perennials to bloom, the Eastern red cedars sported these orange growths IMG_1858
which are the fruiting bodies of the fungal disease, Cedar apple rust.  This disease is usually non life threatening to the host trees.  Apple and crabapple trees exhibit spotting of the leaves once the spores are transferred from the cedars, Juniperus virginiana.  You can read more about this disease here with the experts.  I find that nature creates some of the most interesting forms in the garden and in life.  I can see the toy makers perusing scientific journals to come up with all sorts of new items to entice sales.  Haven't I seen squishy balls that look just like this in the store? 31XDNHKYgVL._SL500_AA300_
I don't know who took this picture but in the interest of fair play, you can find it here.  Of course I did have to cut one down from the tree and feel it.  It felt like those 'grow in water' creatures which grow to hundreds of times their size when you set them in a bowl of water.  I wonder if the same technology which allows these galls to grow tentacles from a hard little ball was used to create those critters also?  

Frostproof container planting


Frost in the field - May 11th 

We have had beautiful weather in New England this spring if you discount that week with the thirteen plus inches of rain which fell all at once.  Otherwise, we have had ample moisture, many days of warm temperatures sprinkled with the usual cooler days.  We had an early warm spell which has driven many to actually plant tomatoes and set out the warm weather annuals.  A friend of mine who runs a garden center told me that many of the growers are out of tomato plants.  What will happen if there is a serious frost in the next two weeks?  There will be a scramble for the plants left at the garden centers.  Some will be caught short.  DSC_0001

Morning light on the garden

Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend is planting weekend for warm weather crops in southern New England.  The last full moon in May is on the 27th and no farmer from days of yore would ever plant his tomatoes before that full moon.   This is really just a guideline as frost can still occur after the last full moon.    I am left wondering what has happened to those common sense rules of gardening?  There are few working farms left in my town even though there is now a resurgence in locally grown produce and more land is returning to cultivation.  Still, land is worth more as a house lot than for vegetable growing. 

Pansies, Heuchera and Lysimachia 

There are plants you can use in containers which are frost resistant.  I planted up a few early in April which is about the time that the gardening bug is at its' most feverish point but it is also too early to do much but clean up the garden. DSC_0016

The container by the garage is a bit battered and best viewed from a distance.  This is planted with Sedum 'Angelina', Euphorbia 'Tiny Tim' and  pansies.  

Viola 'Etain' is also lovely in a container.  This one needs some additions but for now sports only the viola. DSC_0022
You can also plant lettuce in the garden or in containers.  This container is handier for me as it is closer to the kitchen. The feathery plant is cilantro and violas, once again, add some color.  The cilantro is ready for picking but the lettuce needs another week or two.   In two weeks I will be planting the other containers with the tender annuals.  Well, two weeks and a few days since the full moon is on the 27th.  Why take a chance with Mother Nature?  I find that she usually wins. 


Not Shirley

The town where I grew up and the one where the EM and I raised our family is rural, small, and fairly conservative as  are many small towns.  There is one main highway which bisects the town and this is the route which has the local restaurant, the gas stations, a few antique shops and the all important 'ale houses' which are really just bars but ale houses sounds so much nicer.  It was a great place to grow up and a good place to raise a family.  Years ago, my daughter and I were riding together in the car when we passed a local business which gone through a series of owners.  The newest sign read, 'The Perfect Combination'.  Much conversation ensued concerning the meaning of that sign and we came up with many different possibilities.  I remember her turning to me and saying clearly, "handbags and shoes"?  That seemed plausible although there was no clear evidence in the window of this storefront that indicated there might be 'bags and shoes' for sale.  Wine and cheese seemed logical as well but that was not the case either.  It was weeks later before I found out that the store was in the business of 'massage and hypnosis'.   This might not cause any flicker of the eyebrow in a major city but here, in this small town still dotted with farms, it seemed a curious, rather than perfect, combination.  DSC_0015
Who of us isn't striving for the 'perfect combination'.  Whether it be the handbag and the shoes, the perfect partner, a particularly tasty culinary pairing or, with gardeners, the perfect pairing of color, form and texture.  Most of us who enjoy perennials and have perennial borders strive for the perfect combination.  I was sure that I finally had the winner for this spring's debut. DSC_0013

I have a patch or two of Phlox stolonifera DSC_0010
which  sends its' flowers up from the creeping matte of foliage to a height of about twelve inches.  This particular variety, 'Sherwood Purple' is a clear, dark lavender and since it blooms early with the tulips, I could just see this lovely 'Shirley' tulip DSC_0027
highlighting the background with its' white flowers edged in purple.  I decided this was it, 'The Perfect Combination'.  As all great thoughts enter the head, they leave just as quickly and I ordered bulbs for fall planting forgetting the all important 'Shirleys'.  Now, I rarely shop at box stores but I had to go in one for some gadget unavailable elsewhere and while walking to the cash register I spotted the very economical bulbs in their bright, CLEARLY marked packages.  There, resplendent in it's package with beautiful photo for easy identification, were 'Shirley' tulips. Fate had intervened and I was that much closer to perfection in the garden.  DSC_0012

Much of the joy of gardening is waiting.  Waiting for that peony to burst into bloom or for this combination of phlox and tulip to bloom in May.  Here it is. DSC_0006
Blooming and pretty but definitely 'Not Shirley'.  These tulips are not even of the same type or color. This is a cautionary tale.  You really cannot trust the labels on packages (from box stores).   I am still striving for the perfect combination.  It has eluded me once again.  Gardening teaches many lessons, humility, patience, perseverance. If not in life, in gardening, I am ever the optimist, I will try again.


A gift of flowers

DSC_0007 What is better than bringing someone a gift of flowers from one's own garden?  This season is moving at a fast clip and these tulips were part of a Colorblends collection so they have no individual name.  This blend contained this orange/red and a pure yellow.  This is the second season and the yellow tulips did not bloom in force this second year.  I do find that the lily flowered tulips with the pointed petals do seem to last longer in the garden.  This tulip is infinitely more interesting than the plain yellow although they did look nice the first year.   DSC_0008
These tulips are growing in the River of Bulbs along the far side of the property in the GFSD garden (Garden of Five Sisters, One Daughter)  with the rocks and various shrubs and perennials.  DSC_0034
I mention this because they are quite a distance from the house and they do create a good spot of color requiring further investigation.  We have been having unseasonably warm weather and tulips last only so long so cutting them for Mom's return from FL was very gratifying.  Mom loves bouquets, nothing formal, just flowers in a vase.  DSC_0012
I have this genetic predisposition also although one could claim that this is a function of exposure since Mom did have many vases of flowers on tables throughout my childhood.  I clearly remember my only brother, the one boy in the midst of five girls, grabbing a vase of flowers from the table and showering himself with blossoms.  He was only three or four at the time but the memory of his wet face, clothes, and that crown of flowers is still vivid.  I digress.  Mom is enjoying the bouquet, I am enjoying the memory of the smile on her face and the fun of picking the blooms.  DSC_0013
What is better than giving flowers from the garden and the heart?  Next on the list is a small posy or two of Lily of the Valley.  I have picked many posies of those fragrant blooms over the years.   One for my table and one for Mom's.  Have you picked any flowers from your garden lately?