Tag Archives: shrubs

Featured Plant: Mountain Laurel

Yesterday, I was doing my best to have a real day off.  Most of the family (missing the one off at college!) was home so we cranked up the woodstove against the damp chill and sat around. I did some knitting but then true to form got restless and had to head outside. Bundled up, I walked through the back and out around the edge of the turf fields. Then up along the side of one pond and away from the road to head to the edge of another pond deep in the woods. Most of this area between the ponds is filled with Mountain Laurel. What a beautiful plant! With so many trees bare of leaves, this lovely evergreen shrub with twisting branches really stood out in yesterday’s dull overcast light.

kalmia latifoliaKalmia latifolia is an Ericaceous plant native to the eastern United States, from Maine to Florida. In my mind it is associated with Rhododendrons (and they are closely related), but Mountain Laurel generally grows at higher elevations and tolerates drier soil.  It is a slow-growing understory shrub here, although farther south it does reach tree size. Kalmia flowers in late May/early June, often heavily. The flowers  of the native species range from white to pink, with variable red markings.

kalmia latifolia

photo courtesy of Connecticut Botanical Society

kalmia latifolia

photo courtesy Janet Novak

Spring time and flowers are far off, but even in winter, I find Kalmia beautiful. As the PlantFinder says, it’s a

…”Superior flowering native shrub for groups or massing in shrub borders, cottage gardens, woodland areas or wild/naturalized areas. Compliments rhododendrons and azaleas.”

In any area with acidic soil, some moisture, and a bit of shade, it will do well. In the swampy woods of southern Rhode Island, it’s a treat to see even on the greyest day.

mountain laurel


Long Hours, Low Pay

deadheading peonies       Summer help! What would I do without them? I guess I would try to do the work of 5 people…but it sure is nice to have strong young men around! In exchange for all that heavy lifting, digging, lots of weeding, and everything else, I’m trying to make their summer job a great hands-on experience.

We have edged beds, weeded, and top dressed with our compost. We’ve deadheaded and staked. Earlier this week we renovated an area between the water garden and the main garden  which had been trampled into a path. “The Boys” moved plants and shrubs. They found large rocks from a secret stash and planted those too, creating a garden with no evidence that it had been walked on all semester. It looks great!

The Conservatory and greenhouses have been cleaned and organized, making room for lots of new plants. The Gardens have been touched up for two weddings so far, with another this weekend and more to come.  Hedges trimmed, low branches pruned, more rocks moved. In other words, all the things a crew can do that an individual can’t do alone. I am thrilled to have the help to make the Gardens look their very best. It’s only June, but I hope by the end of the summer that Mike, Kyle, Chase, Giles, and Ryan will say it was worth it!

summer crew 2011


sunny border