landscape and design

Saving Summer Bulbs – Cannas and Dahlias

Nobody talks much about it, but the truth is the damn things tend to multiply.

canna tropicana in flower

While this is going on above ground, extension is transpiring underneath.

In the space of a single summer, one wizened little dahlia tuber can become a clutch of potatolike lumps the size of a basketball and the cannas are even worse – or better, if you’ve got a spot that could use a mass of something. Just because they got overused in the days of carpet bedding shouldn’t consign using cannas as hedging to the dustbin of horticultural history.

canna tropicana + millet purple majesty

A section of the side yard hedge (as seen from the driveway) at the Hudson Valley house. The canna is 'Tropicana;' the neat black grass is millet 'Purple Majesty.'

This is by way of saying that – assuming you’ve got room in the cellar or garage –  too much of a good thing may be just enough. And of course a bit more of an expensive thing is its own kind of gratification.

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Eric’s Pet Plant: Weeping Willowleaf Pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’)

Maybe it’s the Northeast’s amazingly early spring, bringing out blossoms not normally seen at this time of year. Or maybe it’s the effect of the new greenhouse, bringing up thoughts of new landscaping to go with. Or maybe Eric’s just beginning to have vacation on his mind. Whatever the reason, get ready to enjoy English gardens as well as weeping pears.

Weeping Pear, Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’

“Our little tree is four years old, planted at a foot tall and doing nicely,” he said about this specimen at Yale’s Marsh Gardens.

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the DIY Greenhouse – Instructions for Home Handypersons

greenhouse from the kitchen

When I posted this view of our little greenhouse, it was to emphasize how too-small it is for major seed starting. But sharp-eyed and perhaps hopeful Melinda asked about the brickwork; I passed the comment along to Bill (who built the whole thing) and he promised he’d describe building it, just as he has described building our  wood-burning clay oven.

greenhouse from the lower side yard

Short version: Adding this greenhouse was neither difficult nor expensive. For longer version, with instructions

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Forcing the Flowering Branches of Spring – Forsythia, Cherry, Kerria…

Old Faithful: forsythia is the easiest spring bloomer to force – if you don’t count pussy willow -but it’s just at the head of the parade

My friend Ilana the chicken lady has been busy tidying outdoors. “I have forsythia, Viburnum carlesii, flowering quince and Kerria japonica cuttings from spring cleanup,” she wrote. “ Will only the forsythia bloom? What about gooseberry and mock orange?

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Any Crocus Experts Out There

who could help with an ID?

Any of the pale ones look familiar?

My friend Gary Lincoff, author of The Audubon Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, teacher at the New York Botanical Garden and crocus enthusiast, is a naming things kind of guy. So when he saw the crocus picture in the Maple Syrup post he wanted to know exactly which species and cultivars they were.

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Echinacea(s) Extraordinaire – Coneflowers go High Style

Juniper in winter garb

Beautiful big snowstorm on Sunday, not predicted but not minded. Glittering blanket smoothing the world, nowhere to go but a chair by the fire and nothing to do but read and try not to eat leftover cookies – until it was time to shovel a foot of it off the driveway.

Today it’s still bliss-productively white, white white everywhere. Including in my head where after Sunday’s catalog wallow I’m looking eagerly ahead to spiffing up the white garden

A corner of the white garden (in Maine)

and that brings us to the story of my adventures with Fragrant Angel,

echinacea 'Fragrant Angel'

'Fragrant Angel'

in all respects except one an enormous improvement over good old White Swan.

White Swan

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Gifts For Gardeners

Just a little reminder it’s not going to be winter forever.

Just a little reminder it’s not going to be winter forever.

First, though, present time. Here’s my perennial shopping list ( with source links) of  good gifts for gardeners.

Membership in The Garden Conservancy is on that list without further explanation and at this point none may be needed. But just for the record: after starting small and being exceedingly Northeast-centric, the Conservancy is now saving significant gardens all over the US and offering benefits almost everywhere. Just the ticket for garden-loving friends, regardless of skill level or actual possession of garden.

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Eric’s Pet Plant: Ginkgo

Over in Connecticut, our friend Eric at Yale’s Marsh Garden has lifted his eyes from his greenhouse’s travails and fastened them on the ginkgo trees. Herewith his overview of the ginkgo’s unique place in the plant kingdom, its fascinating history – and its worthiness in the garden.

Ginkgo biloba, a late-bloomer in the fall color department

Ginkgo biloba, a late-bloomer in the fall color department

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Giving thanks for the bread (oven) – with plans for building a wood fired clay oven of your very own.

As we get ready to fire up for Thanksgiving, I’m reminded how lucky I am. Not many cooks have a huge wood-burning outdoor oven, but thanks to my loving ( and very handy) husband we have two, one in New York and one in Maine.

leslie land (bakaitis photo) leslie and bread ovenBill built the Maine oven so the process could be filmed, so in a way I can thank The Three Thousand Mile Garden for that one. But that one never would have happened if the New York one hadn’t came first, and although Bill did of course build it the ultimate thanks there should probably go to his childhood.

There were several outdoor bread ovens in the neighborhood where he grew up, including one at his grandmother’s place. He never forgot the bread –  or the fact that the ovens were home built – so when I started making wistful noises about how nice it would be to have one they fell on receptive ears.

Next thing to be thankful for: he’s a man of action. And that goes not just for building the ovens but also for providing instructions. You too can have one of these things, not without a bit of work and not instantly, needless to say, but very very inexpensively and it ain’t rocket science, either. Here’s his step by step how-to:

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Eric’s Pet Plant: Banana

This week, my friend Eric over at Yale has his mind on disappearances: the original completion date for the new greenhouse, the promise of post-construction peace and more worryingly, several rare cactuses stolen by someone who obviously knew just what they were after. But thanks to a glitch he will describe ( and fortunately for us) he also found himself thinking about bananas.

The banana at Marsh Garden

The banana at Marsh Garden

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