A weed is just a plant in the wrong place.

And the wrong place for your Ground Sand Cherry is the leach field of your septic tank. When I got the Sand Cherry from Fedco, it was not all that impressive. A mere slip of a plant with red, shiny bark, tiny dark green leaves and (eventually) white single-petaled blossoms, it seemed at home in the alpine garden. It is a truly prostrate plant, rising only 2″ or so in sinuous waves and sending out rootlets everywhere it is in contact with the ground. For the first few years the siting seemed very appropriate and it added a needed structure to the clumps of heather and low growing seedum varieties around it.

Ten years later, it is a proper tree 15′ in diameter branch spread with a 4″ caliper to the main branches and a distinct resemblance to a daylight Cuthulu. The above-ground profile of a tree is matched by its root system, so this is not the sort of thing you want atop your leach field.  Yesterday I dug it up and moved it to a sandy hillside where I can stand back and watch what it does for its next trick. Photo below is of the new site:

I’m not even concerned about the broken branches. I covered them with soil, they’ll root, and I’ll just end up with more Sand Cherry. And that’s fine – the bees love the blossoms, it is completely pest free, the deer don’t bother it and the peculiar growth habit is visually interesting all year long. It can grow to be 30′ for all I care. Now that’s it’s not crowding out the septic field. The remaining plants look a little sparse for now, but will fill in this summer.

Seed Order 2010

pine cone bits seeds 007My Fedco seeds order arrived today, and I spent the morning clearing off the work table down cellar. Tomorrow I’ll fill some seedling trays with ProMix and check the bulbs in the bank of shop lights. Not that I’ll actually start seeds tomorrow – although I used to plant flats just after Christmas and have hedges of tomato plants by the time they could safely go out (around these parts) in late May. That way lies madness and I’ve reformed. I can stop any time I want. Really.

Here’s a list of the packages in the box. I have new acreage to plant this year, but not a lot of soil to be distributed. I went heavy on greens and other categories that won’t mind dirt on the poor and skimpy side, not a lot of things with taproots or a need for deep humus.

Every year I plant out at least 50 seedlings of a particular perennial (or generously self-seeding annual). My original thought was that, at a projected 50 more years of gardening (that was 10 years ago), I would have an abundance of a few beautiful plants that I otherwise would not be able to purchase in such quantity. Some years the experiment is a success and the Elecampne is a striking and vigorous presence in the garden every year. Sometimes not so much, and the boneset – a lovely plant much favored by the bees – disappears completely after a few years. The “100 specimen” plant for 2010 is Blue Vervain:

Blue Vervain OG Verbena hastata This 5–6′ perennial grows naturally in the moist soils of thickets and meadows and will do well in similar garden conditions, sending up many terminal spikes of bristly blue-violet flower clusters the entire season. Although scraggly, it blends very well with many kinds of flowers by stretching its spikes amongst them. Herbalist Gail Edwards finds it “a powerful spiritual presence” and nervous system tonic. Similar to V. officinalis, but more alterative, vervain acts mainly on the liver and lungs. Also used for menstrual disorders. Its roots are more active than its leaves. Likes light well-drained moist soil. Zone 3. OT-certified. ~2,500 seeds/g.

Wish me luck!

238BB-Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Bean (A=2oz) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
297MP-Multicolored Pole Bean Mix (A=1/2oz) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
658SQ-Silver Queen White Sweet Corn (A=2oz) 2 x $2.00= $4.00
798LG-Legume Inoculant (A=treats 8lb) 1 x $4.00= $4.00
818GT-Oregon Giant Snow Pea (A=2oz) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
974DO-Sweet Dakota Rose Watermelon OG (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.80= $1.80
1311BO-Boothbys Blonde Slicing Cucumber OG (A=0.5g) 1 x $0.80= $0.80
1409RV-Raven Zucchini (A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.70= $1.70
1504SF-Saffron Summer Squash (A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
1655BH-Blue Hubbard New England strain Winter Squash (A=1/4oz) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
1719NE-New England Pie Pumpkin (A=1/4oz) 1 x $0.80= $0.80
2018TP-Tonda di Parigi Carrot (A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
2073SK-Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot (A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.80= $0.80
2079KO-Scarlet Keeper Carrot OG (A=1g) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
2186BB-Bulls Blood Beet (A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
2376GB-Gold Ball Turnip (A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.70= $0.70
2411SO-King Sieg Leek OG (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.60= $1.60
2510SP-Space Spinach (A=1/4oz) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
2775FO-New Red Fire Lettuce OG (A=1g) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
2784FO-Flashy Green Butter Oak Lettuce OG (A=1g) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
2859MR-Majestic Red Lettuce (A=1g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
2992ME-Mesclun (A=1g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
3158GI-Gigante dItalia Parsley (A=1/16oz) 1 x $0.70= $0.70
3218SP-Senposai (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
3221TS-Tatsoi (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
3223YN-Yokatta-Na (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
3252TZ-Toraziroh (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
3326BB-Broccoli Blend (A=0.5g) 1 x $1.50= $1.50
3339GU-Gustus Brussels Sprouts (A=0.5g) 1 x $2.50= $2.50
3469KM-Kale Mix (A=2g) 1 x $1.50= $1.50
3885KS-Krimson Spice Hot Pepper (A=0.1g) 1 x $1.90= $1.90
4117PO-Principe Borghese Cherry Tomato OG (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
4207JT-Juliet Tomato (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.80= $1.80
4233JS-Jet Star Tomato (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.90= $1.90
4418GB-Genovese Basil (A=2g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
4517RO-Caribe Cilantro OG (A=1g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
4542MM-Mammoth Dill (A=4g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
4692BO-Blue Vervain OG (A=0.1g) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
4698SW-Sweet Woodruff (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
5094CC-Canary Creeper (A=1g) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
5141SM-Sensation Mix Cosmos (A=1.4g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
5224HM-Mauritanean Malva (A=0.15g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
5275KO-Kniolas Purple Morning Glory OG (A=0.25g) 1 x $2.30= $2.30
5282EI-Empress of India Nasturtium (A=3g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
5296TC-Tall Climbing Mix Nasturtium (A=4g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
5357GD-Gloriosa Daisy (A=2g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
5442CU-Cupani Sweet Pea (A=2g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
5500WD-Weld (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
5774JO-Jobs Tears OG (A=2g) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
5963SO-Northern Sea Oats OG (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
6120BF-Blue Flax (A=1g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
6266QO-Queen of the Meadow OG (A=0.02g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
6322VH-Southern Charm Verbascum (A=0.02g) 1 x $2.50= $2.50
6333BM-Beneficials Mix (B=7g) 1 x $7.50= $7.50

Antisthenes says…

… that in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer.  ~Plutarch, Moralia

The forecast is for temperatures in the single digits over the weekend. We knew it was coming – we’ve had a very mild season so far and we knew it wouldn’t last. But now the snow that fell in fluffy drifts last week and blew everywhere like dust has been rained on a frozen, sculpted into odd patterns and compacted into concrete. This weekend we will be that faraway land where winter is silent and sounds thaw in spring.  I need a reminder of what is under that featureless layer of white, all over the garden.

Campenula and PinksCampenula  growing between seedum and dianthus in the alpine bed.

midwinter astilble and gunneraAstilbe and gunnera growing in the lower garden, near the swamp.

elecampne tree peonyElecampne growing on the stairs, over a tree peony.

Garden swamp

The neighbors, who are plant people extraordinare, gifted me with Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’ the other day.

fothergilla-blue-shadowTHE GREEN MAN blog says: Of all its favorable attributes, the striking blue hue is what really sets this Fothergilla

Gary Handy, owner of Handy Nursery in Boring, Oregon, discovered ‘Blue Shadow’ as a sport of Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy.’ It features the same vigorous growth rate. ‘Blue Shadow’ forms a dense network of angular stems. It’s an upright grower that broadens with age, eventually becoming 5′-6′ high and wide. ‘Blue Shadow’ tolerates of both full sun and partial shade. A semi-shade location results in the shrub’s taking on a more open habit.
Like other Fothergilla, ‘Blue Shadow’ is native to the South, but it adapts well throughout most of the United States, thriving in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8. It has no known disease or insect susceptibilities and prefers somewhat acidic soil that has good moisture-retention and adequate drainage.
In April to early May, ‘Blue Shadow’ dazzles the viewer with honey-scented bottlebrush flowers. Outstandingly-handsome scalloped blue leaves soon follow. In mid-October to late November, autumn colors appear.in Rich reds accompanied by shades of orange and dark yellow.
cultivar apart. It’s a winner that provides keen color contrast to companion plants, particularly those with golden foliage.

Fortunately, I have acres of swamp adjacent to the garden and a lovely moist acidic spot for this plant next to the button bush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. Another plant that enjoys wet, but draining soil is the dwarf astilbe. Plant some swamp today!


Scenes from today’s Garden

Just went out and took garden pictures in the rain. Here are: Blue Angel Hosta with “finger-pruned” white spruce. Pinching the spruce buds half-way back with the fingers every spring, just as they are about to lose their papery brown “cap”, creates a soft, feathery look and keeps the tree’s size within bounds of the garden.  It is generally a bonsai technique but works just as well in the field.


On the other side of the hosta are the Japanese Iris, Nehretsubane.


And, on the other side of the garden, the pale pink dwarf Campenula is in bloom . .


. . next to the Rose Campion.


Little bells

campenula-iThe Campenula are in bloom, and we had a sunny day! This variety has a lustrous blossom, the petals are almost reflective, and a beautiful color in the sunlight.

campenula-iiThis photo shows the starry, silvered dwarf campenula, as well as the dwarf variety with huge, pendulous white blooms. Not for the first time, I swear Ill be better about recording what variety I plant somewhere permanent and easily referenced.

Two weeks of rain. . .

June showers evidently bring slugs, and mildew. And mosquitoes. We have a fair chance of discovering what July showers bring at this point – there’s a 30% chance of rainin the  forecast every day, for the next two weeks. We could have a solid month where it rained at least part of every day – at which point our decades-long drought better well be over.

The Blue Angel hosta is growing to its full potential for the first time. 4′ tall and 6′ wide, it is threatening the astilbe to one side and the Japanese iris to the other – both of which are fighting back with their own record breaking performances.

blue-angelI took these pictures at 7:30 p.m. The cloud cover is so thick that we’ve had fairly consistent light since the sun rose at 4:49 a.m. Civil twilight isn’t until 8:57, for a full 16 hr, 45 minutes of visible light. I could easily be working outside now, at 8:45, and the thrush is singing in the tall trees at the edge of the garden. Tomorrow’s light will be shorter by 18 secs and the long slide toward Christmas begins again.

The Hansa rose was full of bees in the evening, making up for lost time.


Inadvertent Gardening

juxposition-3Generally, the best plant combinations in my garden are unplanned. Not the plants, but the size, texture and color of the picture they make together, which is something I don’t see until they have grown together in a way that one day, has become exciting and attracted my attention.

The harsh climate here has encouraged me to grow vigorous plants. Specimens which the Thompson and Morgan catalogue coyly terms “enthusiastic” or even “reliable”, which is code for rampant and immortal, have at least a chance of surviving here. Autumn blooming clematis must be faithfully deadheaded in Connecticut lest the seed heads explode and cover the entire garden with next year’s vines, but here it dies back completely every year to grow to about 15′ and the seeds find no foothold on the stony ground in the early frost. I can grow honeysuckle, grapes, mullien and woad without fear that one day I won’t be able to leave the house for the biomass blocking the door. Where I grew up, on the Connecticut River, one had to cut the vegetation back from the mailbox  with shears or risk the box being overgrown with morning glories and poppies over the course of an afternoon. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me at seven, with a pair of shears.

In this Maine garden, plants seem to incorporate each other nicely, showing each other off to good advantage.



Sumer is icumen in

The tree peonies are in bloom.  There are 22 buds on the larger one this year – still some time before it grows to 100 blooms and is fit for the Emperor’s gardens. The specimen below is “Yoshino Gawa” – my other tree peony is anonymous. I bought it at Marden’s, our local salvage operation for $2.00. The box said it would be yellow, and it’s a deep pink, which is why it ended up in salvage I suppose.

peony-1The fragrance is wonderful. I have a still-life set up in the hoop house of three of these in a vase and I can’t keep the hummingbird and bee-moths out of there.


Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes þu cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.
Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!

Weather post

It’s been raining for three days. The forecast is for partial clearing tomorrow, and then rain through Wednesday. This never happens here. I remember years when we had our last rain as April showers and then no relief at all until early September, when the land began to cool and the warmer ocean water made for thunderstorms each afternoon. I took pictures while it poured today, shielding the camera under my coat, because the garden is much more Connecticut than Maine right now. It’s as if I had topsoil! Lovely, loamy stuff that held water and the finest root hairs and nurtured earthworms. I guess if it rains every day even this meagre, stony ground will make heaps of daylilies, dense banks of strawberry plants and tender redleaf. Maybe this is what would happen if I were the type of person who watered her garden, maybe.

Looking south

Looking south

The picture below is the random assortment of plants growing in the warm permaculture of the dooryard, occasionally splashed with dishwater in true cottage garden fashion are: woad, lupine, columbine, lady’s mantle, autumn blooming clematis and the ever-present forget-me-nots.


The bean bunker is doing well, too. Those light spots are all the lovely brown eggshells in the top layer of compost.