landscape and design

The Leftover Turkey List – Lucky Thirteen

Dr. Huey rose

This is rosa ‘Dr. Huey.’ He has absolutely nothing to do with turkey, leftover or otherwise. I’ve just had it with looking at food for a while.

These suggestions are offered just in case you are like me and turn out to still have some left. Eternity is famously “two people and a ham,” but turkey is even more so, in my opinion. This may have something to do with the fact that Bill is strictly a ham sandwich man, so I can’t count on lunch for help. (A bit about Dr. Huey follows.)

Thirteen Things to do with Leftover Turkey

shortcuts included

Read More…

Garden Alert! Before The Storm…

alliums on table/movable objects

How many things can you find in this picture that ought to get put away?

Not much can be done to protect the garden itself – but a quick patrol may well uncover potential missiles.

Put inside:

Flowerpots, empty or full


Solar lights (even with spikes in the ground; heavy rains can loosen them enough for a wind gust to pick ‘em up)

Birdbath bowls not attached to strong bases (also the bases if just standing there)

Thermometers and rain gauges not securely fixed to strong supports.

Statuary, gazing balls, any ornament that weighs less than 40 lbs. (or more, if winds are expected to gust over 75 MPH).

Reduce hazards from:

Tuteurs – if possible to turn on their sides without destroying vines, do that. If the vines are annuals, consider saying goodbye and bringing the supports in.

Wheelbarrows – turn upside down

Tables, chairs and benches – if there isn’t room inside, turn tables upside down; put chairs and benches in the lee of a building with the least wind-catching side up.

Flapping doors on outbuildings – if you have a door with loose hinges or a slider, be sure it’s secured.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, please add to the list!

The New U.S.D.A. Climate Zone Map

lavender hybrid gladioli in a cutting garden

Zone 6 zone denial tip: standard hybrid gladioli are reliably hardy only to zone 9 - or 8b, maybe - but if you have well drained soil, plant them 5 or 6 inches deep and mulch heavily in fall (in this case before the ground freezes), there’s a good chance they’ll come back.

By now you’ve probably gotten the word: the long awaited, massively updated USDA Climate Zone map, the first revision since 1990, has finally arrived. And  – insert giant snarky “this is news?” – it shows large swaths of the country have moved up at least a half zone.

In 1991, when I got together with Bill and began gardening in the Hudson Valley, I could joke that my new life didn’t net me a single climate zone, even though the NY garden is about 300 miles southwest of the one in Maine. Until a couple of weeks ago, they were both in zone 5b. Now, while New York remains 5b – by the skin of its teeth, from the looks of things – Maine has been promoted to 6a.

Read More…

Twelfth Night – Time to Recycle the Tree

As a general rule, recycling the tree starts being an issue after the holiday, when a use must be found for a large, suddenly useless dead conifer. But this year we had a large dead conifer well before Christmas, thanks to the Halloween snowstorm that toppled the 15 foot arbor vitae in the southeast corner of the back yard.

Christmas tree with bird ornaments

Our holiday tree, 2011, aka the top of the former arborvitae. There’s a bucket of water inside the pedestal.

Putting it up was extremely easy; taking it down wasn’t much  harder and now we have the same pile of long branches anyone with a regular tree will have as soon as they saw them from the trunk, first step in successful home recycling.

Read More…

Eric’s Pet Plant: Buttercup winter hazel (Corylopsis pauciflora)

Winter is finally upon us. Not counting the stubborn grass and a few stalwart edibles, everything green is common evergreen: juniper, arbor vitae, boxwood, rhododendron…

And almost everything deciduous is down to the bare branches, many of them in need of shaping. What all this is reminding me is that I definitely need some snazzy new material for the string of garden beds that will (next spring) finally be unified into a single sweep of Things That Look Good From Inside The House When Inside Is Where We Are Most Of The Time.

Enter Eric’s excellent suggestion:

Corylopsis pauciflora – earlier than forsythia, far more delicate and FAR more fragrant, to say nothing of better behaved.

Read More…

After the Storm – My Plea for Minimal Pruning

It IS important to clean up, so a certain amount of saw work is inevitable. But it doesn’t hurt to wait a minute on the re-shaping, even though the natural inclination is otherwise.

This is recent experience talking,

maple tree with leaves in snow

We got 22 inches of snow in the infamous October storm. Note that the maple not only has leaves; they haven’t even started to turn.

The loss list keeps expanding as falling leaves expose broken branches we missed earlier, but the general shape of the disaster has been clear for long enough to prompt a bit of family discussion on the subject of remedial pruning.


blooming giant magnolia tree

Somewhere between a third and a half of the magnolia, seen here in happier days.

snow-laden magnolia with breakage

It’s not too clear through the snow, but you can see it’s the middle that went.

Read More…

Eek of the Week – Dyed Blue Orchid

dyed blue orchid

I first saw this thing around Easter time, took a photograph (finding it almost uniquely eekworthy), then realized I couldn’t excoriate it here because I’d forgotten to take a closeup of the label.

And when I went back it had disappeared.

Or so I thought. No such luck. It has returned. The greenhouse/nursery at Adams is a reputable outfit and has therefore posted a warning

warning sign for dyed orchid

But the distributors of this abomination

Read More…

Eric’s Pet Plant: Black Pussywillow (Salix gracilistylus ‘Melanostachys’)

As you may be noticing long about now, we are surrounded by spring flowers, their heart-lifting color everywhere – in the landscape, on garden blogs, at nurseries, in omigodheretheycome fall bulb catalogs.

But there’s one branch of the spring flower shower that doesn’t get as much notice as it deserves, the one that doesn’t have any petals (At least not petals the way forsythia has petals, and certainly not the way daffodils have petals).

So right here I want to put in a good word for catkins, the fuzzy flowering parts of birches, beeches, mulberries, hazels and of course pussy willows.

In a moment, our friend Eric will be extolling the Black Pussy Willows he grows over at Yale, but first a glimpse of our own backyard thrill, the contorted hazel, in full chandelier mode:

 Corylus avellana 'Contorta', in spring flower

Corylus avellana 'Contorta' in flower

The stems look a lot like the curly branches offered at some high end florists, but those are usually the faster growing curly willow, which brings us back to Eric and his fashionably

Read More…

Ice Damage to Trees

I doubt there's a gardener living who can contemplate an ice storm without deeply mixed emotions. On the one hand, it's beautiful, possibly the most beautiful thing the winter landscape offers. Trees that have been encased in ice, that shimmer and twinkle in the least light and shine with their own cold brilliance are winter trees at their best - line drawings electrified.

ice on viburnum

Iced viburnum

On the other hand, that’s “best” in a strictly visual sense. Unless you count being covered with ice while still in leaf, there’s no greater stress for a tree’s crown than having to bear great weight on frozen, unbendable branches.

Unless you count ice plus wind.

Our friend Eric over at Yale isn’t mentioning any woes that may have befallen Marsh Gardens, but he does have a lot of good advice in the “how to save your trees” department.

Read More…

New Year, New Garden and My Perennial Resolution (Bearded Iris Division)

Resolved (year after year, but this year I’m really going to do it): make the garden smarter – not necessarily smaller, but easier to care for – and more stylishly built around shrubs and grasses instead of herbaceous perennials.

For starters, I’m cutting way back on the bearded iris. Not ripping it out root and branch

blue iris blue hosta

The fragrant, impervious-to-snails-so-their-leaves-look-lovely-all-summer blue ones in the blue border are staying, but

 bearded iris and hesperis

the not-fragrant purple ones, whose moment of glory is even briefer than that of the hesperis in the background, after which their snail ravaged leaves look worse and worse until put out of their misery, are destined for removal.

Read More…