Give Thanks, and give back


Nothing becomes obsolete faster than pumpkin decor the day after Thanksgiving when all the neighbors are putting up Christmas decorations. And so today I find myself in this situation. I have a bonanza of pumpkins decorating my front steps this year, thanks to the generosity of a Vermont farmer who GAVE them to me. I happened to stop by to buy some pumpkins the same day that she was going to call the pig farmer to ask him if he wanted them to feed his pigs. So, lucky me, I got the pig food to furnish the front of my house.

Each year I compost my jack o’lanterns and Thanksgiving decor. This year, the squirrels and the birds have inspired a different plan. Rather than fight the squirrels gnawing away an entire pumpkin, or this year an entire mini pumpkin patch, I am allowing the squirrels and birds to feast on pumpkin. As the squirrels make progress and the pumpkin becomes unrecognizable as anything other than squirrel food and bird feast, I take the pumpkins to a secluded place in the garden behind a shrub and leave the pumpkins for the birds, and the squirrels. It is a marvelous symbiotic relationship. Within a very short time, the pumpkins are eaten into disappearing.


Why not try it yourself?


Winter is Coming

The debris from over 100 peonies
                                                           The debris from over 100 peonies

I know winter is coming not by the date on the calendar or the outside temperature plunge, but by my withered peony plants. Come late fall, the leaves and stalks of my many peonies will have begun to decompose, and it is time to cut them down and haul them away. I put off cutting down my peonies  for as long as possible to insure they get all the energy possible in through their leaves for as long as possible. But once they begin to turn brown and even some to mildew, it is in their and my best interest to cut them down. If they stay too long in the garden, any diseased leaves can fall to the ground and  any undesirable spores can hibernate til next spring and begin another cycle.

Good peony management is equal to good hygiene.

It took a whole day to cut down the over 100 peonies in my garden and haul them away to the dump. I don’t compost them in my compost pile because, again, any undesirable spores can be spread through the compost so I take them to the town dump. This is rather hard work, and it pains me to see so much potential compost going to waste! But, it must be done. There is so much volume I have to borrow a friend’s truck to  move it all.

It is only at this time of year that I question the number of peonies in the garden, but only briefly. For all I have to do is think of their spring exuberance to chase away doubts that they are too much work, or too ephemeral and I find myself researching new sources for new peony introductions. A fetish can be a wonderful thing.

I am heading out now to plant two Sugar and Spice peonies in a client’s garden. Lucky her, she is in for a treat come spring.

Allium Garden


My daughter was married in London in January. It was a small wedding, only 16, so almost all American friends and family couldn’t be there. SO, when my daughter and her husband moved to Boston in August, I seized the opportunity to throw them a stateside wedding party.

As little gifts to the guests, we gave a small bundle of allium bulbs – after all what is a better gift in the fall than spring blooming bulbs? As I was wrapping the bundles of bulbs, it occurred to me that planting an allium garden would be a wonderful way to commemorate the wedding.

I gathered hundreds of allium bulbs, found a perfect spot in the garden and one recent spectacular fall afternoon, I planted a Wedding Allium Garden. In it are Allium Globemaster, Gladiator, Purple Sensation, Ambassador, Christophii and Shurbertii. Elsewhere in the garden I sprinkled Sphaerocephalon .

Alliums are so easy to plant, and so fantastic to have in the spring garden. Since alliums tire out after several years  and eventually stop blooming,  I plant some every year. But this year was a bonanza year for allium bulb planting. I have confidence that it will be a bonanza spring for alliums. It will be lovely to look at the alliums and remember the joy and fun of the wedding.

Bulb planting is not very picturesque so I am not including any photos of bare bulbs or me hunched over with a spade in my hand. But come spring, check back here on Of Gardens to see the pictures of the bounty of alliums.


Hannah Carter Japanese Garden Update

Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

I think this is a bit of a pyrrich victory, but at least it’s a stop gap measure.  UCLA has managed a compromise in its legal fight to sell the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden. Those of you who read about the initial uproar about UCLA’s proposal to sell the house and garden to developers (Ofgardens February 16, 2012) may remember that the historically important garden was given to UCLA with the stipulation that the house and garden never be sold. Nevertheless, in November 2011 the University went to court to break the bequest. The compromise reached recently is  that the garden can be sold, but the new owner will preserve and maintain the garden for at least 30 years.

I question the strength of the legal binding of this agreement. Afterall, it was only 50 years ago that UCLA was given the house and garden with instructions to maintain and preserve it forever. La plus la change….

Here is a synopsis of the update from The Cultural Landscape Foundation:


The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has reached an agreement with the heirs of Edward and Hannah Carter, according to the Los Angeles Times, settling a legal dispute over the immediate fate of the historic Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in Bel-Air. Under the terms of the new agreement, the university is permitted to sell the garden only on condition that the new owner agree to preserve and maintain it for at least 30 years. 

Created by Nagao Sakurai and faithfully reconstructed by Koichi Kawana, the garden is among the most significant examples of post-War Japanese gardens in the United States. It was entrusted to UCLA in 1964 by Edward W. Carter (and subsequently renamed to honor his wife Hannah) and the university pledged to maintain it in perpetuity. But in 2010, following Mrs. Carter’s death (Mr. Carter predeceased her), UCLA persuaded a judge to overturn the terms of the bequest and subsequently put the garden up for sale.

TCLF listed the garden in its Landslide program as an “at-risk” landscape in January 2012 and joined a coalition that included the Los Angeles Conservancy and others to halt its sale and ensure its long-term maintenance. Then, on July 27, 2012, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a temporary injunction delaying UCLA’s sale of the garden and upholding its legal obligation to maintain it. The garden has been closed to visitors for some time, and this most recent agreement contains no stipulation regarding public access. But it is the hope of the members of the Coalition to Save the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden that any new owner would seek a conservation easement and allow for periods of public visitation.


A Whirlwind Tour



This past Tuesday, June 9, my garden was on tour. Over 300 visitors came, admired, and went on their way. For any of you who have had your garden on a tour, you know how much work it is! However, all the hard work and anxiety before the tour was repaid manifold by how much people enjoyed my garden, and were inspired by it. People asked a lot of questions – the most often asked question was “what is that plant that looks like a firecracker?” Answer: “Star of Persia allium” – not only about what things were but how to do things. The beauty of my garden, the scale of it, and what I have achieved with my own two hands inspired hundreds of people to go home and try something new in their garden. I often say in this blog that I believe in the healing power of gardens. On Tuesday, I witnessed the inspirational power of beauty. I wish you all could have been there.

Global Re-Entry


La Foce
                                                                             La Foce

I’ve been away for many weeks, traveling on 3 continents. I am looking forward to sharing with you all the wonderful gardens I have seen.

Of course I had to come home sometime. Upon my arrival back in the USA I went through Customs at Logan International Airport in Boston, my hometown. When it was my turn the Custom Official listed the required questions to incoming residents “Where have you been? How long have you been away? What was the purpose of your visit?” Usually I give simple short answers but this time, still on a high from all the fabulous gardens I had seen and the fun I had had seeing them I answered with enthusiasm,  “I was on a Garden Tour in Italy. We saw 20 gardens in 2 weeks!”

Upon hearing this, the placid, somewhat bored features of the Customs Official turned quizzical, then incredulous before he asked skeptically, “How do they pick the gardens, by whoever has the best backyard?”

I was rendered speechless, stunned that the gardens I had seen were being called “back yards”. I had indeed been out of the country for a long time. How could I give an answer to this question and educate this person who thought of gardens as “back yards” on the achievements of Italian Gardens from the Renaissance up to the 21st Century in the nano second I had to answer before the line behind me erupted? My mind swirled, but my subconscious came up with an answer, “By historical significance”, I replied.

Now it was  his turn to be shocked and speechless. We looked at each other as if we were both from other planets, not the same city, and parted each other’s company without another word, but with a certain amount of disbelief  and suspicion on each other’s part.

Sometimes reentry can be challenging.