Edible Garden

dahliaHard frost came to my home garden in the wee hours of Monday morning. Here at the top of Kingston Hill, the Botanical Garden had none to speak of, but the plants are looking pretty tired. Lack of rain, deer, woodchucks, and rabbits took their toll this year! Wide swaths of Phlox and Chelone were eaten to little nubs, then eaten again. Hostas disappeared early on. Echinacea has become a wildlife delicacy. Annuals were lunch as soon as they were set out. There are a few bright spots:  Japanese Anemones (eaten and recovered), Dahlias  (near the road= not eaten), Toad Lilies (also eaten and recovered), Ornamental Peppers (untouched!), Callicarpa, and of course, beautiful fall foliage.

Toad Lily/Tricyrtisanemonedisanthus leavesstewartia

Callicarpa/Purple Beautyberry

Oh, and last but not least: Gaillardia, in the All-America Selections Display Garden. These little plants fly under the radar at the annual Plant Sale, but they can’t be beat. They are perennials blooming first year from seed (started April 1st), withstand heat, drought, animals, and insects. October 21 –still blooming! Save a garden spot for them in the spring.

Gaillardia

 

Real Rain

That’s what everybody here is walking around saying, with a smile and a grateful look at the gray skies. Yes, it’s been quite a while. I like having a rain day to focus on the greenhouse, dividing and potting up plants, rearranging, cleaning up, and taking cuttings. Here are some greenhouse plants which caught my eye today.

Tibouchina

Tibouchina/ Princess Flower

Mimosa

Mimosa / Sensitive Plant

Anthurium

Anthurium

Canna

Canna

Cactus

Cactus–unlabeled!

Justicia

Justicia carnea / Plume Flower

Polypodium

Polypodium Fern

September Sights

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’   ‘Indian Summer’,  I think!  That’s what happens when I let everything seed in…

rose

Rosa ‘Dortmund’

locust borer beetle

Megacyllene robiniae, the Locust Borer Beetle. A new one to me!

ant and bee

Apis mellifera, warming my beekeeper’s heart, and an ant (Lasius niger??) on Hydrangea ‘Tardiva’.

goldenrod and physostegia

Solidago and Physostegia, the colors of September.

 

Abundant

By my way of looking at it, this is a pretty good growing year. After a long cold spring, most of the summer has brought great weather. Not too hot or humid, just warm, sunny, and pleasant, with cool nights —  a reminder of why in the days before air-conditioning, people would come north to New England for the summer. The soil is dry now, and a rainy day or two would be good, but still, I’ll take it! So many things have grown so well this season (and it’s not QUITE over!) that I wanted to share a few.

marigoldsOrange flowers and vegetables are everywhere this year!

AAS zinniaNumex peppersungoldMostly I like them, some, well, with so many great petunias to choose from, why would you plant this one:ugly petuniasBut on to other abundant things!

More raspberries (almost) than I could put up, in my home garden.

raspberriesA second cutting of hay in South County:

cutting hayHornet’s nests, big and beautiful in their own way:

hornets, larchhornet, rhodiesFlowers and fruit of all kinds.

bee balmblueberries

Did something grow really well for you this year? I’d love to hear about it!

Into July

It’s been quite a while since the last post! With the weather fine and dry through most of June, we spent all our days out in the garden. Now it’s hot and humid, with a tropical storm predicted for Independence Day. It seems early for hurricanes*, but hey, I’m not a meteorologist, I’m a gardener. And so, here are pictures of the garden. Lots of color as we head into full summer!

bee balm/monarda and wild marjoram

Bee Balm (Monarda) and wild marjoram.

daylily

Daylily (Hemerocallis)

astilbe

Astilbe

Anthemis and bright orange Asclepias

More Bee Balm, one of my favorites!

More Bee Balm, one of my favorites!

Lavender (Lavandula) growing along the sidewalk to the greenhouse.

Lavender (Lavandula) growing along the sidewalk to the greenhouse.

* Hurricane Rhyme…… “June: too soon,  July: stand by,  August: upon us,  September: remember,  October: all over.”

Either a  “mariner’s proverb”, or a “Carribean folk saying”,  reportedly first published in “Weather Lore” by R. Inwards in 1898.

 

 

 

Why We Love Rhododendrons

rhododendronAn early explorer of Narragansett Bay, Giovanni da Verrazzano, saw the islands covered with Rhododendrons and was reminded of the Mediterranean Isle of Rhodes… or so goes one of our beloved mythologies of how our little state came to be named Rhode Island. Another story says that Adrian Block, a Dutch explorer for whom Block Island is named, referred to a “red island” in Narragansett Bay, Roodt Eylant in Dutch. Either way, we love Rhododendrons.

rhododendronThere are native Rhododendrons, R. maximum, in the understory of wooded areas all over the state. Tales are told that these groves of Rhododendrons were so big in colonial times that a person could become lost in them! The Ell and Long Pond area in Hopkinton has huge Rhodies which give a hint of this possibility.

rhododendron

Photo by Lauren Weeks

The cultivated Rhododendrons are also very much at home in our maritime climate. They thrive here, for the most part, and are widely planted as ornamentals. Their incredible tropical flowers are a big part of the late spring/early summer landscape, and I love seeing them as we approach the longest days of the year.

rhododendronRhodies come in a wide spectrum of colors. There are probably thousands of different pinks, along with whites of every variety, and purples from light to dark and approaching blue. There are some warm tones, like the deep red ‘Francesca’, and even orange and yellow, which are not often seen around here. Sometimes Rhododendron flower buds are a different color than the open flower. All have a splotch or eye which is sometimes highly contrasting with the flower color and sometimes barely visible.

rhododendron

Photo by Lauren Weeks

rhododendron

Photo by Lauren Weeks

Shallow-rooted, Rhodies like moist soil but not “wet feet”. They like a little bit of shade, being an understory plant. They will grow in full shade but flower more with some sun. They prefer acid soil, with good organic matter, and don’t like to dry out. They are mostly evergreen, with leathery long deep green leaves (although this varies from one species to another). Like other evergreens, they are susceptible to “winter kill” leaf damage when the ground is frozen. Planting in an area protected from strong winter winds helps prevent this.

rhododendron

Photo by Lauren Weeks

Being well adapted to our climate (zone 6-6A), many Rhodies grow fast. And what many home gardeners don’t realize is that they can be cut back hard. How hard? Down to little stumps! I love to tell bore students with the story of how my first job at East Farm was to cut down the Rhododendrons along the fence leading to the gate. I was horrified but they came back better than ever. So if they are covering the first floor windows of your house, don’t be afraid to cut back, AFTER they flower.

rhododendronThere are thousands of Rhododendron species around the world, native to environments  from the tropics to the Himalayas. There are a multitude of hybrids and cultivars, especially if you count Azaleas, which are Rhododendrons (that’s another post). Most likely there is one you can grow at your house! The best way to find the right Rhododendron for your climate would be to visit your local nursery or greenhouse.

rhododendron

Photo by Lauren Weeks