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
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
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.
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Living With Limitations: Snapback
Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana withJacob’s Ladder
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.
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.
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: Doing What Gardeners Do
Spirea Double Play Candy Corn. Photo Proven Winners
I still have not managed to be in two places at once, so my blogs will be erratic while I play in my garden every available day.
Weigela Midnight Wine Proven Winners Photo
Over the past winter I placed a wish list/order with Adamson We Grow Nursery & Garden Center and received an email announcing the first of my order was ready for pickup. I gathered my wish list, made a promise to myself to stay within my budget, gave my wallet a pat, then headed out the door beneath sunny blue skies.
The garden center was filled to overflowing with fresh shipments of trees, shrubs and perennials along with promises of more to come. When I arrived and got out of my car, I had to pause, stand and stare to take in all the fresh bright green, the bright colors of annuals and rhododendron blooms. I do believe my heart paused with me as I stood there in a puddle of awe. I broke loose from my daydream, held the lust list in my sweaty hand and went through the entrance leaving my budget promises behind.
This year I carefully measured and assigned spaces to complete a redesign of a narrow space following a path. I chose shrubs that were easy to grow, behaved themselves and only grew to two or three feet in height, and close to that measurement in width. Heavy emphasis was placed on foliage texture and color. Bloom was to be an additional bonus. I also wanted sizes giving me instant gratification; a number three, no less than a number two size.
Hydrangea Tough Stuff Ah-Ha
Proven Winners Photo
Two hydrangea were on my list. I have a Hydrangea serrata “Tiny Tuff Stuff” that has performed well for me and decided I needed two more to complete an arrangement leading the eye along the path. “Tiny” reaches only one and a half to two feet with lace cap style blooms of pink or blue. Hydrangea “Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha” is a two to three foot shrub with dinner plate size double flowers and is a rebloomer in pink or blue. Hydrangea “Tuff Stuff Red” is two to three feet of reblooming double lace cap flowers in red.
I find myself fascinated by Spirea now that I have become more aware of the new-to me sizes and foliage colors. I transplanted two Spirea to my garden late last summer and now find myself adding two more. There is a Double Play Series of this shrub that has captured my eye. And, eye-candy they are. Spirea “Double Play Gold” reaches one and a half to two feet, has bright golden foliage in a perfect mounding habit with blooms of pure pink. Double Play “Candy Corn” is of the same size as its companion. Look this one up at your garden center for leaves of candy apple red shifting to pineapple yellow as it ages; new growth beginning with orangey-red. Top it all off with dark purple blooms.
Weigela Monet Moment Sunset
Proven Winners Photos
Last year I rediscovered Weigela and transplanted “Spilled Wine” with its dark foliage and red trumpet blooms between two Spirea “Ogon” with bright yellow willow-like leaves. This trip to the garden center I came home with Spirea “My Monet Sunset”. Only one to one and a half feet, it begins with leaves of green and as they age colors of gold appear, shifting and fading to sunset colors in fall. This one is a real chameleon of colors in green, reddish gold and yellow. There are more cultivars on order.
Of course I slipped on that slippery slope of temptation and came away with additional plants not on my list. They had most excellent containers of Viburnum “Li’ Ditty” with its puff balls of white blooms and only reaching one to two feet. With the two I transplanted last summer I can now have two on side of the path and locate the third a bit further up on the other side to draw the eye forward. They always seem to have great ferns and this time was no exception. I left with two Dragontail ferns (Asplenium x ebenoides). I will be returning for the remainder of my order.
I sat the shrubs in the planned locations, then dragged into place soil amendment bags, got everything into position including the tools and watering can. I have found that I can dig a hole, amend and transplant one shrub per day. There was a time when I could, and would, transplant all five of the shrubs in one day, but no longer. And, truth be known, the limitation may be a blessing in disguise. Now I take my time, rest often, alternate tasks, and savor what ability I have remaining to be in my garden.
Living With Limitations: Gardeners and Gardens
Water fountain in Conservatory at Longwood Gardens
Right now I am glancing back in the rear view mirror to see where I have been the past couple of weeks. It has been a ride I will not forget either short or long-term. The first week was made up of the stuff dreams are woven from. The second week I could have done without, but here I am to complain, so it was not all bad.
A fellow local gardener whom I have known for quite a few years informed me she was again making a trip to PA to see Longwood Gardens and did I want to come with her and her friend? This was the second or third time she had extended the invitation and this time I was determined to accept her generous offer. With her permission I called my landscape buddy and invited him to travel with us. We were on for the garden trip of a lifetime. Or, so I thought until it got even better.
I mentioned the trip to a fellow garden speaker I had met in Michigan last year and she wanted to be a part of our group. With Karen’s approval she was in and would fly down my Mass. meet us in PA.
The one element that was the “glue” for this trip, the thing that gave the most pleasure, was the gardeners. Had we only met to walk and talk, I would have been happy with only the gardeners. They would have been reward enough for the 12 hours driving. Not only did we share the gardens, we managed to all meet for dinner one evening, lunch on another day, and for breakfast each morning.
Enchanted Garden cottage at Winterthur
We managed to fulfill our schedule of expectations and visited not only Longwood Gardens for a full day, but spent a full day at Chanticleer, then on final day, a half day at Mt. Cuba Center and Winterthur each.
I knew two gardeners who worked at Longwood and let one know I was headed in their direction if he had the time to meet. As it turned out, he had to work, but provided tickets for the 5 of us. Whatever I may have imagined Longwood would be, my imagination was not nearly big enough. Longwood was big. Very big. The conservatory alone was worth a full day under glass. There was something for every gardener, every inch of every acre immaculate and perfectly color coordinated; the Mecca of the gardening world.
Formal Garden feature at Mt. Cuba
The last day of our trip a very large storm with high winds, heavy rain and lightning was in the immediate forecast. As of breakfast the storm had not materialized so off we went to Mr. Cuba. If they do not have the most complete collection of Trillium species and cultivars, I do not know who would. The woodland trails were a treasure to explore. The docents were very helpful and volunteered assistance frequently without our having to ask. Near the end of our wandering sprinkles began and we decided to head for lunch and then on to Winterthur.
Winterthur was an amazing spectacle of collections; landscaping on a massive scale. There was only one way for me to experience this adventure and that was by electric cart with a docent. After the first trip, we returned to the one area I simply had to stop and explore; the Children’s gardens.
There I found myself longing to be eight years old once more. If you are, or have small children, then this garden is an absolute must.
The Ruin at Chanticleer Gardens.
I saved the best for last and that was Chanticleer on our second full day. It may be the smallest in size of the four gardens we visited, but it is without a doubt, the largest in satisfaction. The first seeds sown for this garden had to have been seeds of enjoyment. Every square inch of the property was detailed in imagination, innovation; of dreams and follow through. If I do not quite make it to heaven when I pass away Chanticleer will suit me just fine. Truly a gardener’s dream become reality.
I was also able to see all of my “babies” from my old nursery Chanticleer had ordered over past years.
I have not gone into detail on the four gardens, for there is no way I can do them justice in a short blog. There are literally books on each of the gardens, as well as their websites. But, do make the trip in person for memories to last a life time.
Three days after unpacking my bags I ended up in an EMS vehicle on the way to a local hospital. My Afib returned after an absence of two years. The excitement of all those gardens must have speeded up my heart beat and got it all out of rhythm. I am now back to my garden and my normal heartbeat. Just hope I can keep it all under control when I begin visiting all the garden centers this month.
Living With Limitations: Proverbs
Erythronium dens canis, Mertensia virginia
When I hear the word proverb I get visions of a big black leather-bound book and someone about to give me a pithy quote followed by a lecture. The dictionary says a proverb is “a short saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice”. Not necessarily advice from the Bible. So, since a precept can come from any source, I made up one for myself, and I quote me, “Any man who hath a garden and dark chocolate has contentment.”
Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana with Jacob’s Ladder
While visiting a gardening buddy he took me on a tour of his home county. We saw historical monuments, cemeteries, homes of historical significance and parks, along with other local sights connected to his childhood. He had many memories to share as he drove us from point to point. The town of Vincinnes, IN loomed large in his tour and we made stops at several places of interest. One stop at a childhood memory of his was Charlie’s Candies. Just driving there, hearing the story of his connection, was enough to invoke visions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movies.
We stopped, entered, and stepped into an aroma of warm chocolate and hints of nuts and fruits, probably as close as one can get to the scent of heaven without passing away. My feet were six inches off the floor, my wallet floated up from my back pocket and nestled into my hand as my nose pressed to the glass cases. I feel sure they cleaned the glass after I left. I went from case to case, pointing and requesting, watching a box fill to overflowing. My expectations and imagination were more than met when I bit into the first chocolate confection.
There was one chocolate that was oversize compared to the rest, not very pretty in appearance that I purchased as a last minute impulse. It was marshmallow center, dark chocolate and nuts outside and no skimping on any of the ingredients. Each piece was the equivalent of three of the others. Tea time will never be the same since that stop at Charlie’s Candies. The chocolate was decadent; so fulfilling both behind my bellybutton and my senses all I could do was sigh in contentment.
Primula vulgaris, Red Form
My garden and I have been companions for well over thirty years now. It is where I taught myself to garden, where we both grew together. Each season, each year, we shared all the anticipation, excitement, disappointments, satisfaction and our quiet times together. While the word happiness gets tossed around quite a bit, I would say there was, indeed, happiness being in my garden, but the best part was all the contentment experienced. The feeling of being content was deeper and lasted much longer.
That word, contentment, keeps popping up in my life of late. Just imagine coming in from a day out in the garden in spring weather with its cool morning, sunny warm day, having completed weeding that pesky area. Getting fresh mulch down and walking the paths enjoying all the renewal coming into being before your very eyes. Makes a gardener almost strut like a mating Prairie Grouse in ritual with his puffed out chest. When all is said and done, I am content with my efforts to create a garden. Is it perfect? No. But it has exceeded my expectations by far; more than I could have imagined. Now when I rest from my work in the garden I can sit down to afternoon tea, pick up a dark chocolate piece of candy and let it melt on my tongue.
Combine the two contentments and what more could a human being ask for? “Any man who hath a garden and dark chocolate has contentment”.
Living With Limitations: Gratitude
Pink form of Trillium grandiflorum will be opening soon.
I was kneeling on my garden pad removing crowding weeds from a stand of Trillium, both admiring and thankful I managed to be successful with this species. Taking a break from weeding, I stood up and began pacing the path for a bit. So many new noses were pushing up through all the leaf mulch, some already in bud or bloom. What a feeling to have, to be among, a part of, all that renewal. We both weathered it through another winter.
Hepatica peeking from under leaf mulch
If another gardener asked me if I were appreciative of my garden, I would have quickly replied, “Well, of course.” Like, well duh, what a foolish question. But it would seem, on occasion, I have to be reminded in order to consciously be appreciative; to find gratitude for my garden. It is not that it is not there, just perhaps I tend to take it for granted. We all know what happens in a relationship when we take someone for granted. Both sides loose value, the relationship itself loses value, and we do not realize just how valuable our gift until it is going away or lost to us.
While strolling the upper paths of my hillside garden, I began to realize, again, just how much I enjoy my garden, and my many years of a satisfying relationship. Those thoughts led to other relationships in my life. My declining health has placed a new pair of glasses on these eyes; a new, perhaps clearer, way to see what is around me, what has been there all along for my benefit. My illness has changed my every relationship.
Phlox divaricata and unfurling fernsferns
Strange how because life has changed; it affects my every relationship. My friends who liked me the way I was, now need to change how they relate to me and our relationship. One small but very important aspect of the changes is my having to give up driving my auto except for very short trips. In steps my gardening buddy who will take charge and get me where I need to be in the gardening world. He is also pretty darn attentive to my health needs. Gardeners come visit me and give me a hand with the physical needs of my garden. I could go on and on about the generosity of my gardening friends.
My wife is my primary caregiver, the one who had to adapt and change the most in my relationships, and it had to be overnight. Not only does she have her own life and all its commitments such as caring for and visiting her mother in a nursing home, she also has a full time job. All the responsibilities of a two person deal suddenly becomes a one person operation; hers. Not only do I have doctors’ appointments, she does as well, for every trip has her accompanying me. The concern for my health, the responsibilities I can actually see on her face.
Speaking of doctors, the medical community, I have a pulmonary specialist, Cardiologist, Family doctor, Dermatologist, Neurologist, Internal specialist, and more, that seemingly changes each month. Then there are all their staffs with assorted specialist for tests. Hospitals, rehab centers, home health care, this entire army of medical assistance keeping this old failing body operational for a while longer. It is as if I were the head of a flow, a small boat on a river of assistance.
Omphalodes verna with Polygonatum tips
Standing there, weeder in hand, I feel a deep, moving, sense of gratitude for all who give so freely. Now that these feelings are up front in my conscious mind, it is time to express my gratitude. To say thank you for all that you do for my wellbeing. That would include you who read this blog, giving me the opportunity to share.
There is always a glass of wine or hot cup of tea waiting to be shared when you come visit.