Archive for the ‘In the Garden’ Category

New Year’s resolutions are on everyone’s mind this time of year. This year my list starts with a very general vow: Spend more time out in the garden. At this point, I don’t care if that means time spent weeding, planting, pruning, propagating, or just watching the plants grow. During 2014, I simply spent far too little time doing what I love to do best. My garden suffered as a result, and so did I. With any luck, working in the garden will also help with resolutions relating to getting in shape and losing weight. According to Web MD, you can burn anywhere from 200 to 600 calories per hour in the garden, depending on the activity.


Above: All my resolutions will make room for more plants, including bulbs like these snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis).

I also want to continue taking steps to make my garden and landscape more Bay- and earth-friendly. Obviously, this is an issue I have been thinking quite a lot about in recent years, since it is a major focus of my new book, Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping. Since I don’t want to start off the year with a daunting list, today I am concentrating on steps that will help reduce maintenance or bring other benefits.



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The end of April is nearly upon us, and I am already behind in the garden. Late season snows and a book deadline eliminated most of my gardening time this month. As it always does, spring weather finally arrived and eliminated the snowy weather, but the most important change in my schedule results from turning in the manuscript, photographs, and photo captions for Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping. It has been a labor of love, and although I still have pages to read and an index to write, I am happy the worst is behind me. I am still very excited about the book, and think that it will be a great resource for anyone who wants to garden in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  Readers of Eastern Shore Gardener will be among the first to know when the publisher, University of North Carolina Press, gives us a publication date!


Above: Great merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora) a native woodland wildflower.

For me, playing catch-up in spring means weeding. I am trying to keep hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) and ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) from taking over.  I am also lifting and dividing a few perennials and teasing self-sown seedlings out of the ground for potting up to give as gifts or donate to local plant sales. (You know who you are, shoot me an e-mail!) My favorites this year are seedlings of great merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora). My original plant came from my mother’s garden, and it has spread nicely. In addition to enlarging by politely spreading rhizomes, seedlings appear around the original clump. I also have spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) everywhere. These are trickier to dig because their corms are deep in the soil and it is easy to miss them with a spade.


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I don’t have a light and cheerful lead sentence for this post, because it centers on the fact that my mother died recently. She passed away unexpectedly on August 17, and her death will cause fundamental change in the lives of all her children and grandchildren, along with her first great-grandchild, Charlotte, a.k.a. Charlie, who joined our family just barely a year ago. As I was pulling weeds in mom’s backyard a day before the funeral, I realized that her death also begins the inevitable separation of our gardens.


ABOVE: The sunniest part of mom’s garden, located on the edge of her woods, is cram-packed with hostas, ferns bear’s breeches (Acanthus spp.), peonies, and more.

Surprisingly, thinking about our life-long connection as gardeners, and not just as mother and daughter, brought more comfort than sadness. It also yielded insight into the plants I love and why I garden the way I do. (more…)

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I’ll keep this post short and sweet, but I wanted to share a picture of my husband’s latest welding endeavor. His welded boats and trellises have periodically appeared in photos of my garden, and he has recently begun making flowers as part of his garden sculpture experiments. The daisies below are his latest.


Above: Welded Daisies by Peter T. Evans, a.k.a. the Mad Welder!

He is donating this piece to the silent auction to be held June 9 for the “Art in Bloom” fundraiser held by RiverArts and Community Mediation in Chestertown. The piece is 4 feet tall and 20 inches wide. I hope some Eastern Shore Gardeners will attend the benefit and bid on it!

Also, in case anyone is interested, I am donating a collection of plant divisions (at least 5)  from my garden to the silent auction. Divisions will be selected to suit the winner’s garden.  I hope some of you will bid on that as well!

Hope to see some of you at the reception. For more information, click here: Art in Bloom!

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I have been derelict in my postings of late, and it’s not just the heat at work. I am hunkered down at my computer working on a really exciting book project. You see, most of my career has been spent writing for publishers who publish nationally, and this book is especially exciting to me because it is focused specifically on gardening in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. I am writing it for Adkins Arboretum and it is going to be published by the University of North Carolina Press. Publication probably isn’t until 2014, but my manuscript and all the photos are due in March of 2013. So, between now and then, I will be pretty tied up.


ABOVE: Hemerocallis ‘Bridgeton High Society’

I’ve also been busy taking pictures of Bay-friendly gardens, since there are quite a few color photos in the book (yeah!). In addition to taking some pictures of my own, I’m also working with a friend and photographer, Neil Soderstrom, to get photographs of some really wonderful gardens for the book. I’m also planning to use this new-found photo library to put together talks on gardening in this region—especially green gardening in this region.

So, while I still intend to post to Eastern Shore Gardener regularly, if there are silences from my end, just know I’m hard at work on Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping!


ABOVE: Hemerocallis ‘Woodside Perfection’

Summertime Color

Even though Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping will focus primarily on native plants, I’m posting pictures of daylilies today, since they’re among the brightest things I can see while chained to my computer. Mine have been going strong for at least six weeks despite the heat, and the second flush is just getting started. In my garden rebloomers like ‘Stella de Oro’, ‘Happy Returns’, ‘Rosy Returns’, and ‘Black-eyed Stella’ are first to bloom. By now they are in reblooming mode, but flowers are sporadic since I don’t water much. Midseason daylilies keep the flowers coming strong, and I’ve shared pictures of three standouts that are gorgeous now.


ABOVE: Hemerocallis ‘Conspirator’s Oath’

The meadow is also filled with flowers these days, and I’ll get a post up about that in a week or two! In the meantime, stay cool and happy gardening!

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Mulch and weeds have consumed a good portion of my gardening energies of late. When you are sweating with armloads of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), it’s easy to forget what gardening is all about, so today’s post is an attempt remind myself—and everyone who reads this post—why all the sweat and bug bites are worth it.


ABOVE: View from the kitchen door, April 26, 2012. Spiraea ‘Magic Carpet’, lavender, golden marjoram, and self-sown wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata).

For me, putting plants together and seeing what they do is at the heart of my gardening obsession. Collecting as many interesting plants as I can get my hands on is high on my list, too. These pictures of the front garden at Hackberry Point are meant to show how those two passions—or obsessions—have come together thus far. I hope you enjoy them.


Above: Variegated lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis ‘Striata’) with foamflower (Tiarella ‘Oakleaf’), crested iris, ferns, epimediums, and wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata).


Above: Alas, I can’t find the label for this gorgeous purple-leaved heuchera. Name or no-name, it’s a keeper! It is growing with heuchera ‘Autumn Bride’, Caryopteris ‘Hint of Gold’, an Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’ seedling, and enthusiastic-to-invasive self-sowing bronze fennel (Foeneculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’).


Above: Spiraea ‘Golden Elf’ adds a splash of gold to this combination and grows happily with tricolor sage (Salvia officinalis ‘La Crema’), Heuchera ‘Caramel’, a variegated sedum, and purple-leaved Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Ruby Glow’. Self-sowers Lychnis coronaria ‘Angel’s Blush’ and wild blue phlox fill in.


Above: Chinese ginger (Hexastylus splendens, formerly Asarum splendens) with ajuga, European ginger (Hexastylus europaeum, formerly Asarum europaeum), rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides), and dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicusi).


Above: A favorite hosta that came down to Maryland from my garden in Pennsylvania, Hosta montana ‘Variegata’. It is underplanted with European ginger and foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia ‘Susquehanna’)


Above: This is the bed that forms the oldest part of the garden. It’s under an elderly redbud and on the edge of a steep drop off that starts just beyond the tree’s trunk. Hellebores, double bloodroot, and Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) are first to bloom here. By April 20, yellow trillium (Trillium luteum), originally from my mother’s garden, and Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) are in bloom. Hellebores,  large merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora), and stinking gladwyn (Iris foetidissima ‘Citrina’) foliage cover the ground around them.

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I’ve been spending every spare moment in the greenhouse or garden for the past few weeks. This time of year, flats of seedlings occupying every spare inch in the greenhouse. They are crammed in amongst cuttings of overwintered tender perennials like coleus, a huge pot of a dark-leaved elephant’s ear (Colocasia sp.), houseplants that didn’t fit inside this winter, and more.


Above: Colocasia ‘Black Beauty’ spends summers in a container of water in the garden, and winters in the greenhouse.


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Earlier this week I nearly won first prize on America’s Funniest Videos. Thankfully, no video cameras recorded the event.

Recent plant purchases are driving yet another garden expansion here at Hackberry Point. This time I’m digging on the north edge of my front garden, where cultivated space meets rampant weeds. Although I knew the garden would eventually expand here, I think I’ve been waiting until the work itself would somehow be easier. Gardening doesn’t exactly work that way, though.


Above: Honeysuckle on the edge of the garden, ready to meet its demise.

On its north edge, the front garden ends in a mass of weeds that cover a very steep drop-off. Clearing the site was a necessary first step in the expansion. In this case, the weeds are primarily non-native invasives: Common periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). Driving the expansion and waiting patiently to anchor the new garden edge, is ‘Ruby Slippers’ oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), one of several new plants I picked up at Rare Find Nursery recently.


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Today, I would like to testify that my greenhouse/potting shed has been clean for 24 hours. I have recorded that stunning fact in two pictures, one from each end. Since this is the epicenter of my garden, home to everything from tools to all things green,  it only happens a couple of times a year. Alas the cleanliness can’t last.


In the off season, I use the greenhouse to overwinter tender perennials in pots and as cuttings. It’s also the winter home of houseplants that either don’t fit into the house anymore or need cooler conditions than our house offers. (Clivias are an example: To bloom well, they need a cool, dry dormancy. I can do dry indoors, but 40°F is another story.) Add to that starting seeds, nursing on divisions, holding plants for plant sales, and you have the general picture.


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On sad days of remembrance, and days when I feel hopeless or out of control, eventually I find myself in my garden. Today, I marked the anniversary of 9/11 by planting trees, something I did on this afternoon ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I watched the news coverage in horror and disbelief until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and then went out to the garden. The dogs came with me, and they played while I planted a yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea). It wasn’t a special tree—just a native tree that had been patiently waiting to be planted. That tree became my own personal memorial to 9/11.

I fully realize that my single, solitary act of planting a tree couldn’t possibly change anything. It didn’t even bring comfort to anyone else, but it certainly did to me. That’s because working in a garden is comforting. Caring for plants offers a perfect opportunity for quiet contemplation. In 2001 and again today, I found myself thinking about the individuals who were killed, the families who had lost loved ones, and the way our lives have changed in the interim. As I dig holes, remove grass, work in the soil, and just sweat, I also simply stop thinking. That is comforting in and of itself.

Today, my two best garden-companion dogs, Bing and Casey, helped me create my own personal memorial of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. They lounged in the shade while I planted an oak tree, a tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), and a fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus). The first two were added to the throng of plants covering the hillside along the road. The fringe tree will anchor a new section of the garden that will keep me busy, and planting, and contemplating for the foreseeable future.


Above: Barely visible, the newly planted fringe tree is situated on a peninsula of mulch that connects it to an existing bed and also marks the garden’s next expansion.

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