Living With Limitations: A Secret Garden Center

Living With Limitations: A Secret Garden Center

Dicentra spectibalis Gold Heart

A Secret Garden Center

What if you had your very own secret garden center where only you were allowed to shop? An exclusive where you walked displays at your own pace and any question was immediately answered. Where you had first choice of any plant on display. Once your heart was set upon a plant you could immediately transplant it to companions in the garden. Next plants in line for delivery instantaneously of course. Kind of makes your toes tingle just thinking about it.

My Secret Garden Center Discovered

While doing early weeding and just walking my awakening garden receiving gardener’s visions, inspirations, stirrings, awakenings and downright revelations, the discovery was revealed to me.  That garden center has been here right in front of me all along. My own garden, no less.

My garden is well over 30 years old now and my mistakes managing to survive remain with me. Much of my garden career I purchased by impulse, brought the plant home and found a space for that poor perennial. I did not truly develop the discipline of design until some time later. That means there is a wealth of plants available to me that needs new locations, new companions to bring out their best. An entire pallet of color, shape, texture and size awaits.

Not For Long

But, that wait is not for long. My first realizations came as I considered emerging noses of Polygonatum sibiricum in a blue-stem form that will become an open colony of tall, upright stems with whorled foliage reaching five feet. All in a surprising and pleasing shade of powdered blue. Blooms are in tiny clusters at the leaf junction and not at all showy. The show is blue stems. Here they could stand another season unaccompanied, or become a part of something great.

Polygonatum sibericum blue stem form

Coming Together

I am considering moving the Solomon’s seal to a new location with more space, and arranging a collar of three Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ surrounding the blue stems. Gold Heart bleeding hearts seemingly came from nowhere growing into 5 clumps. My guess is I threw out some pieces of roots left over from potting up for my old nursery. Imagine glowing yellow foliage reaching two feet in height and spread with arching stems of reddish tan. Blooms of heart-shape in pink with white contrast dangling along an arching stem like lockets on a line.

Some years back I ordered a Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’ a cultivar of our native spotted geranium. It grew well first couple of years, then disappeared and I forgot all about it. Sometime later I began to see seedlings pop up true to its parent. I now have perhaps 5 or 6 small stands of this unique geranium with its chocolate/coffee over green large leaves reaching 5 inches across. Growing into a groundcover two feet across and about the same in height I think it will make a perfect companion to the collar of gold around the blue stemmed Solomon’s seal.

Hakone Grass All Gold

New Plants

Moved from random locations into companions the three perennials become new plants. I am truly looking forward to creating this new arrangement and already find myself looking at other perennials in a new light.

I walked by a stand of newly emerging Aconitum that I long ago forgot the name of. The Monkshood stands alone need a companion. There are stands of All Gold Hakonechloa grass that could be paired up so they would enhance each other. My new-found garden center seems to hold a wealth of new possibilities for my garden.

Now is an excellent time to read my new book. Just click on the book above to order your copy.

Living With Limitations: Snapback

Living With Limitations: Snapback

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana withJacob’s Ladder

Bungee cord

Last week I told of quarantining myself due to age, health and the Covid-19 virus. To insure my staying at home I attached a bungee cord to my ankle that was to snap me back when I reached the end of my driveway. Well, it worked: and, only too well.


I had forgotten something I learned back in highschool: for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. I rather conveniently misremembered why I was quarantined and headed for a local garden center to pick up supplies. If I stayed in my auto, I told myself, no handshaking and hugs, I said to me, then all will be well. No direct contact, no catching anything. So, out I went.

At the end of the driveway I stretched the bungee cord past its set limits. There was a pause of no movement in either direction and then, in a second split finer than a frog hair, I snapped back. In an instant I was back where I began. Only now I was at the garden entrance with bungee cord wrapped around me and a post. Being tied up like that gave me time to think while untangling the cord.


I unwound an ignored aspect to my planned adventure to the garden center (and relief from the quarantine).  I was conveniently ignoring all the health officials and government advice to stay home with my diseases and age. If at risk of a disease that can kill in my condition, do I really need some fertilizer that bad?

Mertensia virginica, or Virginia Bluebells

With a Little Help from my Friends

I called in my order and asked them to hold for pickup and received a receipt by text. Not touching paper. The manager at the garden center knew my health condition and gave me a polite bit of advice about staying home as advised. She went the next step and volunteered to deliver the merchandise to my greenhouse, all stacked in its appropriate place so I would not have to touch anything for twenty-four hour period. Thank the gods for caring fellow gardeners and bungee cords.

Therapeutic Gardening

As a result of the caring garden center manager I had the supplies I needed to begin prepping my garden for spring. First up was to fertilize an acid bed with HollyTone and let that settle in when it rained the next day. I also began to feed the hydrangeas but ran out of time to get them all fed.

While fertilizing I saw numerous green noses needing deer spray and began ruining their appetite as best I could on plants I knew they would hit first. Number one would be any lilium that reached 2 inches or more. Once bitten there will be no bloom. Only early dormancy and more than likely less of a bloom next year. Along with trilliums hydrangea will be next on the list.

Corydalis malkensis


While performing maintenance there was more than ample reward. First of the Trout-Lilies (Erythronium) were opening. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia) were in tight bud with almost purple-black foliage. Primula are beginning to bloom. Tiny Spring Beauties line the garden path along with various species and hybrids of Corydalis.


Perhaps a touch more common sense has been snapped back into my awareness of the seriousness of this virus. A bit of time, some patience along with a gracious gardener of two and we will get through all this with each other and our gardens.

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Living With Limitations: Isolated

Living With Limitations: Isolated

Helleborus niger, Christmas Rose


Flu and the new virus Coronavirus have certainly changed the world in which we live and garden. To say the least, for me, it can be unnerving. I have COPD emphysema as well as some other ‘technical difficulties’ with my health, and I am in the middle of recovering from pneumonia.   Being the somewhat intelligent individual that I am, a decision was made not to get out there in the midst of all that potential danger. For the past month I have placed myself in quarantine. No traveling any further than my garden and end of my driveway. To insure my compliance I have attached a bungee cord to my ankle that snaps me back before leaving my home.

I would hope that, if at all possible, you are exercising good judgement in the midst of all this potential for illness.


If You Are a Gardener

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana withJacob’s Ladder

Isolation is not so bad if you are a gardener, so long as it does not stretch into delaying visits to garden centers. Thus far I have been scheming and drawing pictures, taking notes, ‘researching’ on the internet. Then outright and openly visiting every online nursery checking inventories and comparing to my gottahaves list. Then there are the plant searches that lead to nurseries I was not aware of with the need to check their inventories. As it turns out there were several plants added to my gottahaves list that I was not aware existed.

Then followed the serious and quite firm discussion with myself about ordering starter size plants. I am at the end of my active gardening career and time to grown on from plugs is now in the rear view mirror. The need now is garden centers where I can locate gallon and larger sizes. I know it limits actual purchases, but perhaps that is a sign from my accountant (wife).

Iris reticulata

Social Distancing

Thus far I have heeded my all advice from the experts and kept my distance for the outside world. But that does not include text, Messenger and phone calls to a local garden center. (My wife would say we are in “cahoots”). I have made arrangements to pick up supplies to kick off the spring season. Fertilizer for perennials, different one for shrubs and trees. Will need compost for transplanting new perennials, along with a new birdbath demanded by Mrs. Robin and her new brood. I also saw a large container in my favorite style and color and know exactly where it needs to be located. All I need to do now is pick a day to drive to the nursery. I will back my car in, they will load and I will hand over a check for the invoice already printed.

No getting close to another human being, out in the open, no handshakes, not elbow bumps: just grinning and spending money at a nursery. For now that is enough to complete a good garden day.


With the new supplies and a little decent weather to work in the garden cleaning up for this season I will be fully occupied and not notice (too much) being isolated from other gardeners. There is looking forward to thirty days from now when the big garden center day trip is planned. A full day of visiting selected premium garden centers with other gardeners.

Stay tuned and stay healthy. Remember soil under the fingernails is good therapy for body and soul.

 Click on the book cover above and get your copy to read while isolated.

Living With Limitations: Toxic Relationships

Living With Limitations:

Adonis amurensis and Hellebore x Garden Hybrid white

Toxic Relationships



This story goes back 3 to 4 years. Each spring I am reminded of its progress, but do what most gardeners do: procrastinate. I was vaguely aware of the situation, but only gave it a nod. Making a mental note that went something like “I really should do something about that” and moving on. After all, the relationship was only in the beginning stages and there were reasons not to disturb its growth as yet.


I was fortunate in locating and purchasing an Adonis amurensis ‘Chichibu Beni’ that had long been at the top of my up-front list, and without having to take out a second mortgage.  Adonis with their fern to feathery foliage in bright spring-green topped by saucer-like petals in yellow-orange with a hint of tan are set off by the yellow stamens in the center. What is not to lust after?

To the best of my knowledge this cultivar can only be propagated by division and they are not fast growers.  This not only means a high purchase price, but also you know the start will be small when received. I was tempted to name it “My Precious” when it arrived for transplanting.

In anticipation of My Precious’ arrival I had prepared a raised bed next to a mature white blooming hellebore. Several other Japanese woodlanders included in the order would play companion. The first year it emerged, but if I had not known where it was

located I would not have noticed the small sprout of green that quickly went dormant. The next year there was one bloom and it was small. The third year still only one bloom but overall the plant was larger and more robust. It also had a seedling hellebore that had germinated in the space intended for the Adonis. I did not want to disturb the Adonis roots so soon after transplanting so I let the relationship remain. The fourth year I saw a toxic relationship developing. The more assertive and robust hellebore was in the root system of the Adonis. They may have been a pretty couple together, but a gardener could see where this relationship would end up.


The Adonis may have been quite lovely to look at and seemingly quite delicate with its feathery foliage, but it was, once established, a perennial that could hold its own in the garden. However, the hellebore was an exceptional plant selected for its size and vigor. It was far too much for My Precious not to lose itself in the relationship and eventually fade away with its space and nutrients take up by the hellebore. If they were to

Helleborus thibetanus, Thibetan Hellebore buds emerging

flourish they will have to be separated and this year is the optimal time. The hellebore will become a gift to a gardener, and the Adonis, once dormant, will find a home with its own species in another bed. Its new companions will be yellow –blooming Adonis, snowdrops and a species hellebore H. tibetanus. All will grow together, go dormant together, with space to look and preform at their best without the threat of smothering.

In the 1970’s everyone was discovering the concept of personal space and their need of their space in a relationship. Looks like that still applies not only to both gardeners but their plants as well.


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Living With Limitations: Hibernation

Living With Limitations: Hibernation

Helleborus foetidus, Bear paw Hellebore


Looks as though my hibernation is coming to an end. However, unlike the bear, my hibernation means I have put on weight from standing at the window eating snacks while waiting for gardening weather. Then there were the snacks at tea time to go with my scanning gardening catalogs. Perhaps a dessert after dinner while watching the TV. (The stress of no new plants in my hands demanded compensation eating sweets.) That has pretty much come to an end. Now it is salads with lots of fresh greens and veggies, cutting back on refined sugar and no desserts after dinner. Getting in shape to go outside the den now.

Helleborus x garden hybrid, Thumbprints


Coming out of hibernation and winter fat also means back to some exercise to get ready for the garden. I am not overly fond of my treadmill but if I am to be more active that is where it will all begin (another shaking my head from side to side and growling). Need to loosen up from all the times I skipped walking the treadmill in favor of Facebook. My routine will begin with short periods, increasing in increments as each day passes. Always a price for past behavior, sigh.

Hardly Bear It

I can hardly bear the weight, ah, that is wait, for spring to show up on the calendar and in my garden. The weatherman does say we will have one good day this week to play in the garden. The morning will be in 50’s, afternoon in the 60’s with sunshine and low winds. Just about perfect. I spend the morning just walking the paths in my garden. Just being there and enjoying looking at spaces where there will be excitement shortly. I called it limbering up. Come afternoon I was out there rake handle in my hands as I begin to clean debris from the paths. An hour later it was time to not overdo it and I stopped to admire my handiwork. Clean paths reaching up and across the hillside made me feel like I had created a new world, waving that long handled wand. While standing at the bottom of the hill looking upward I imagined ephemerals peeking from under leaf litter and posing for photographs.

Helleborus thibetanus, Thibetan Hellebore buds emerging


The next 3 days are to be heavily overcast with continual raining giving me more than enough time to plan a strategy for tackling the next garden chore day available. Meanwhile, there is seed and plant swapping, last minute siren calls to be answered when another new plant is discovered on the web. Shortly there will be trips to garden centers to follow up on my wish-lists, along with fertilizers, mulch and soil conditioners.

It is time for the great awakening.


Coming Soon

New Presentation to accompany my book A Gardener Grounded; Meeting Life Challenges Post Diagnosis