Garden centers

Reflections - Austin Fling 2018

Waterlilies at the Zilker Botanic Garden

Memories of Austin and the 2018 Garden Blogger's Fling linger with me this wet, lush New England morning. It has been a week since my return and there is much on which to reflect. It was my sixth out of ten flings and while 60% is never a mark I strive for  I do feel fortunate to have been able to attend six Flings. This was my first trip to Austin-attempts to attend the 2008 Austin first fling were thwarted due to airline problems. This time I arrived a day early, just in case. Austin is a friendly city and the people of Austin, Austinites, are happy. They are also very polite (I was Ma'amed several times) and, they are helpful. I am used to New England directness. Austinites have cultivated a gentleness and overt kindness which we northerners may possess but often hide. These traits were and are the hallmark of The Austin Fling team, Pam, Diana, Laura, Sheryl, and Jennifer, who were always smiling and helpful under the stress of the event production. All seemed to go off without a hitch. Great garden choices, great buses, lunches, dinners, entertainment and accommodations.

l-r:Laura,Jean,Margaret, Jenny, Helen

I have made lifelong friends because of these planned garden flings. Flings have brought many gardeners together with our shared love of gardening, writing and blogging. These friends, whose lives stretch from one end of the country to another, are keepers. It is wonderful to be able to look them in the eye, give them a hug and spend time chatting about our lives of gardening and family, work and now retirement. I regret not meeting and knowing all the bloggers in attendance but I did get to meet a few new bloggers, Angie from The Freckled Rose and Jennifer of Frau Zinnie, both from New England along with Liz, Margaret, Ellen, Jenny and Mary Beth to name a few. I hope to see  Angie's and Jennifer's New England gardens at some point this year and I truly hope they come to visit me in my garden. (I will make cake).

Glass Sculpture at the Donna Fowler garden

Each garden will be remembered both collectively and individually for its unique style and generous gardener. Most owner/gardeners greeted us at their garden entrances. Each is deserving of a separate post. Garden art and garden pools took center stage at this Fling.

Pam's Pool
Pam Penick's soothing pool

Fragrance was also present. I will not soon forget the scent of the jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, which was growing in many Austin gardens. I was envious of this scent each time I was enveloped in its fragrance. I cannot grow it in my Zone 5b-6a garden but as I walked my garden upon my return I realized that each region is given the gift of scent. I have lily of the valley and lilacs along with the perfume of the early blooming Viola odorata.  I would not trade these scents for that of Confederate Jasmine but I will hopefully revisit that scent with another Texas visit. The lushness of Austin did surprise me. Yes, there were dry gardens. Jenny & David Stocker's garden so reminded me of Beth Chatto's gravel garden. That is a post for another day. Green trees and swarths of lush foliaged areas were abundant. The Colorado river does run through Austin after all and it has been dammed to provide a 'lake', Lady Bird Lake, which was in generous usage while our group was visiting. Austin does seem to have abundant yearly rainfall, 34+",  considering its location. I think most of that fell on our group that first day of touring.

Lady Bird Johnson
Courtyard-Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Mother Nature provided us with a true Texas gully washing event which only made this Fling more memorable.


Austin Fling's wrap party, it was such a great party, ended with our last visit to Articulture, a unique Austin plant boutique.  Tequila and barbecue were served up with Texas style hospitality amidst laughter and lingering conversations. As I reflect on this Austin experience I clearly understand why Texans love Texas. This New Englander loves Texas as well. Thank you Fling Team for a wonderful time.



Under glass!

High 29 F
Low  23 F


Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boyleston, MA

The New England landscape in January can be cold, barren, and wind whipped and we have had our share of those days this month.  Short tempered and sun starved is the norm this time of year and hibernation and comfort food seem like the only recourse but, under glass, Dsc_0025 the blooms are bright and the air is a moist relief from dry indoor heat. Dsc_0029 This Abutilon 'Vesuvius'   is a bright torch leading the way out of the darkness.  The entry display of plantsDsc_0024 just invites you to explore this conservatory in more depth.  The bright orange plant on the center left is a coleus 'Sedona' and I have enjoyed this plant in containers during the summer months.Dsc_0054   It has very interesting color tones in its leaves. I think I will have to have some this next growing season!  Hardenbergia_violacea The Hardenbergia is flowering wildly and there are so many plants in this conservatory which are new to me and bear further study.   The SolandrumSolandra_maxima

is just about to push open this big bloom and, for color, Iresine_herbstii the Iresine 'Brilliantisima' knows no equal! Dsc_0044 There are several  little nooks created for sitting and enjoying the surrounding beauty.  Dsc_0034 These are created by the walls of tropicals and are arranged such that you feel you are sitting in a private garden.  Dsc_0051 This nook is complete with this victorian aquarium.  I have never seen one before and this one must have been quite the find!   The little sign indicates that it was a donation in memory of someone's beloved and the tank itself is circa 1880.  Water has a presence in this space and the trickling sound of this fountain Dsc_0037 and its' twin can be heard throughout the conservatory.  Acacia_fulcata Overhead, the Acacia blooms profusely adding its' bits of sunshine to the glass enclosure.  It is a spirit lifting experience to stroll through this man made ecosystem but, unlike the fish swimming unconcerned in their little tank, one must eventually step out of paradise and back into the harsh reality of  Dsc_0061 a cold January day.  The lingering memory of moist warmth and bright flowers and foliage will help with the remaining necessary steps toward spring!  Thanks for taking those steps with me.   


Spiders and Witches, pumpkins and gourds!

High 63 F
Low 30.6F

In honor of Halloween this spider web appeared in the garden.  It was a few days ago but it does look spooky doesn't it?

Today I stopped at The Farmer's Daughter in Kingston, RI  and took some pictures of their seasonal display and characters.  They have gourds and pumpkins in every shape and size!  The topiary containers have been dressed for fall Dsc_0098 as has this urn. Dsc_0104 The characters are all unique and they have been dressed up in thrift store outfits which look pretty good! Some of these outfits look much better than my gardening outfits! Dsc_0095 Here we have the blond Prairie

Woman. Dsc_0096 Next is her companion who seems to be losing the battle with the weeds!  Here we have The Count.Dsc_0105

He is quite fashionable in his aubergine suit complimented by the surrounding pumpkins. Dsc_0120 Last but not least is 'The Widow'.  She has a great hat!  Dsc_0115 The field of pumpkins with all the tractors behind them is an interesting picture and the tractors will surely get the attention of the Equipment Manager and his fellow tractor lovers but sometimes the simplicity of just cornstalks and pumpkins is the most satisfying display! Dsc_0106 Happy Halloween to all of you!


Seasonal displays!

High 80 F
Low  54 F


We are back with summer like temperatures today.  I hear that you cannot call it Indian Summer until after the first hard frost.  We have had a very light frost but the basil is still edible  and while the annuals are looking shaggy, the grass is still growing!  Last week in my travels I visited Cataldo Garden Center in Littleton, MA.  It is a full service garden center  and gift shop with a great variety of products.  Dsc_0019 I couldn't resist a couple of half price snapdragons and some white anemones.  I did enjoy their October display.The display is pretty organic as you can see from these pictures.  The mums are in full bloom and the pumpkins are aligned in a beckoning manner.  The scarecrow brings a smile to most faces.  Dsc_0021 Who doesn't love a scarecrow...except the crows!  Dsc_0020 In driving today I was struck by the many houses which are decorated extensively with goblins, ghosts, witches and that white cobwebby stuff.  Lots of houses and some even have the huge blowup items which require a fan to keep them inflated.  I wonder who has time for this not to mention the $$$ that could be spent on plants.  Well, we all have our addictions but most of that stuff will just end up in the landfill won't it? Dsc_0022 I like the above decorations the best.  You can either eat them or compost them.  What do all of you do to decorate for the seasons?   


Just some pretty pictures!

High  76 F
Low  52.7F

Banana with friends!
Today, I visited a garden center, The Good Earth, in Scituate, RI which is fairly close to my home.  The owners are organic gardeners and they love plants, wildlife and salvia, not in that order.  I took several shots of their plants and gardens and just wish to share the beautiful scenes with all of you.

Callicarpa, Purple Beautyberry

Salvia m. 'San Carlos Festival' with Verbena bonariensis and dahlia
Hibiscus abelmoschus 'Manihot'

Salvia discolor

Oregano 'Kent Beauty'

Antigonon leptopus, Pink Coral Vine
Dahlia 'Poeme'

This dahlia exhibits multiple colors on one plant creating a very interesting addition to a container or planting.  The foliage is very dark.  Enjoy!


Cacophony of Color!

High 75 F
Low 47.7 F


I last wrote a bit about Briggs Nursery in April but things have really blossomed since then.  This garden center located in North Attleboro, MA has some of the nicest displays around.  Check out this annual tree! Dsc_0013 In the background you can see the palm trees which are imported each year for the roadside garden.  They are quite a conversation piece in this zone 5 - 6 area.  As you can see, the front is full of color.  Dsc_0012 I know that yesterday I said I really preferred the 'hot' colors such as the first picture and this displayDsc_0011 but after seeing these containers which are used as edgings and barriers, I might change my mind! Dsc_0009



The nursery yard is well stocked and neat as can be.Dsc_0014   There is even a palm tree in the back to pique your interest.Dsc_0015   Briggs also has a lovely shade garden which features

many different varieties of hostaDsc_0018

and other shade loving plants such as this Dsc_0021 variegated pachysandra, the always elegant European ginger,Dsc_0019 and this little Solomon's seal groundcover.Dsc_0022

The shaded walk in this garden invites you right in for a strollDsc_0020 among some very large Dsc_0024 and varied hostas and then the path leads you right back out into the sunshine.Dsc_0023


Searing Sojourns!

High 96 F
Low  61.9 F


Today was a day to be traveling in an air conditioned car or working in an air conditioned building.  Not so for the garden center workers.  They must endure the heat and spend most of the day watering.  Plants respond to heat stress by drooping and people pretty  much do the same.  In my travels today, I stopped at Woodbridge Greenhouses.  The name is derived from the dense glacial til which is called woodbridge soil.  This soil was deposited on smooth top slopes or upper side slopes when the glaciers receded.  Woodbridge Greenhouse is indeed on a hill not far from the highest point in Rhode Island which boasts just over 900 feet.  Not too impressive is it?  But keep in mind that this is the Ocean State and height is always relative.   The owner and grower is a friend, customer and great grower!  There is always something interesting to see at this small and delightful garden center.   Dsc_0011   It has a small office located in an old house which is painted butter yellow with lime green steps.  The window boxes are adorned in my favorite shades of burgundy and lime green.Dsc_0014 The nursery yard is well appointed with shrubs and filled pots.Dsc_0012   Why is there no picture of the nursery yard?  It was hot and I guess I missed that shot.  At the corner of one of the greenhouses is this inviting waterDsc_0013_2 feature with this great nepeta in the background.  There is a display garden enclosed with a picket fence.  Dsc_0015 It has some very intriguing stepping stones which were made by a local artist.  There are three different ones.  One with horses, Dsc_0016 one with fish Dsc_0020 and one with dragonflies. Dsc_0019 Very interesting!   Did I leave without purchasing?  Not this time.  Here is the booty!Dsc_0022   The  weekend clean out of the borders resulted in some obvious bare spots and we can't have that can we?  I bought this grass, Chasmanthum, Northern Sea Oats,  Heuchera 'Lime Rickey' , and this Weigela, 'My Monet'.   Have any of you grown any of these?  What do you think of them?


On the road again...

High 60 F
Low 52.0


Today the schedule demanded a trip to visit some customers on the coast.  I know, that sounds like a long trip but in Rhode Island, even though I am as far inland as one can be without being in another state, it is only 35 miles, or so, away.  I started my trek by crossing the Jamestown and Newport bridges and once through Newport, along the roadside in Middletown, I glimpsed the mule team pictured above.  The mules are owned by Rhode Island Nurseries. Rhode Island Nurseries is the oldest and largest nursery in the state.  It was founded in 1895  by the Vanicek family and they are still  operating it on 420 acres where they field grow ornamental shrubs for garden centers.  They use the mules for cultivating between the rows of plants. It is easier to use mules to work between tight rows as tractors are too wide. They do use some machinery where they are able but the mules are a tradition and a necessity. They use the manure mixed with grass clippings and wood chips to replace topsoil which is lost when the shrubs are balled, burlapped and lifted from the field.  Sustainable agriculture! What a great idea!

This nasturtium displayed in a container planting at Island Garden Shop in Portsmouth caught my eye. Dsc_0028 Of course they were out of this variety.  Displays really help to sell product.  As I crossed the Mt. Hope Bridge into Bristol I couldn't help but notice the whitecaps on the bay which was a hard steel gray.  The wind was quite strong and the temperature was only about 55 F.  Chilly and unusual for June!

My biggest adventure of the day was visiting Gayle, Kris and Fred at Blithewold  I have known Gayle and Fred for quite some time but had yet to meet Kris.  She writes a blog on the plantings and gardens at Blithewold which I have been enjoying for the past several months.  I have been to Blithewold before but when you see it through the eyes of another's pictures and then in person the details stand out! Now I know right where the Chestnut Rose stands!   It is a magical property with 32 acres (I think)  right on the water.  The grounds are meticulously and lovingly cared for as Kris relates in her blog.  It was a real treat to actually meet Kris and to speak with her and Gayle-the highlight of my day!  Day, I mean month!  I know that she has many blogs to write and I don't want to take away from her future posts but here are a couple of pictures from Blithewold . Dsc_0029 It is an amazing place! This rose garden smells heavenly!  Click on picture to enlarge. Dsc_0040 This  picture has some wonderful paving detail in it so be sure to notice it although the focus is on the orange tree. This next picture was taken on the woodland path of which there are several. Dsc_0037 I love the structure and texture of the tree trunks. Okay, one more of the rock garden which is a surprise garden as it just seems to appear as you walk along a path. You can see the bay in the background in this shot. Dsc_0046 It would be no problem to spend more time here given the chance.  The hard work of the staff is clearly visible in the pictures.  I wish I could borrow the 'Deadheads' or the 'Rockettes'.  Kris, can't you spare them just for a day or two?  There is nothing like meeting a fellow blogger! I'll be stopping in again to say hello and next time I will bring pastry!  Promise! 

I did stop at one other small garden center called Hidden Gardens.  It is right on a main street but  the parking area is tucked behind several buildings.  On the way into the parking area I took a picture of these Dsc_0059 Dsc_0060 neon planted window boxes created by the owner of Hidden Gardens.  They are hard to miss.  Here is a shot of the sales area. Dsc_0054 It is small but filled with explosive color.  This window box Dsc_0056 was also done by Hidden Gardens for the ice cream parlor.  Doesn't it look delicious!?  Here is one last container.Dsc_0061_2 As you know, I love containers and am always on the lookout for those that are  well dressed.  I hope you have enjoyed today's journey. Thanks for coming along.