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.


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.

Purchased Promises


Once again, I have purchased more seeds, and bulbs,  than there is room in my garden. Sometime in the last few months I got on my computer and purchased promises of lupines, poppies, forget-me-nots, hollyhocks, sunflowers, aquilegia, and other random seeds I don’t remember purchasing. The seeds weigh more than 8 oz all together, which a rough calculation is about 6,000 individual seeds. If I manage to grow them all I wouldn’t have room to plant them. Any way wish me luck.

I source my seeds mostly from seed houses who offer heirloom seeds. I prefer to support companies who make the effort to produce heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are tried and true varieties. They have a known history of performance and flavor  and usually disease resistance and other desirable characteristics. This means that, unlike hybrids, the heirloom seeds collected from one year will reproduce plants with most of the characteristics of the parent plant. This is a key to survival of the species. And an important part of maintaining plant diversity. Heirlooms are the antithesis of GMO.

Here are some of my sources for heirloom seeds:

And oh! I also found 25 Purissima tulip bulbs in the vegetable drawer of my refrigerator. I’ve planted them up and – inspired by my friend over at Garden in the Burrow   (http:/  – I am trying, for the first time, to force them to bloom indoors.


If I’m successful with any of the 6000 seeds or 25 bulbs, I will be sure to post about it and let you know.

Cover Garden

Wellesley/Weston Magazine
WellesleyWeston Magazine

My garden is the the front cover of the WellesleyWeston Magazine! This is as exciting as seeing my name in print. The photograph was taken last June by their talented staff photographer, Peter Baker.  The cover photo leads into the main article about the upcoming Hills Garden Club of Wellesley Garden Tour on June 9, 2015. My garden will be on the tour; in the magazine article it’s referred to as The Formal Garden.

To read the inside of the magazine, click here:

Of course, this month, my garden gate doesn’t look anything like the above photo. Here’s what my garden gate looks like today:


SNOW: The Great Garden Ephemeral


New England is well into the snowiest month on record. Talk has moved on from complaining about the amount of snow (over 100 inches!) to measuring the human misery caused by the snow.

My garden is blanketed in snow, like the rest of the region. The snow cover has erased almost all definition. The garden aspects of winter interest I so carefully designed are invisible, irrelevant and some are vulnerable because of the snow.

This winter, none of that matters to me. The snow itself is a wizard of interest. Because of the snow, my garden changes without any input or effort on my part. I don’t touch it but everyday there are changes. Some would look out over my garden and see only white. I like to look and see what only the snow can show. Depending on the time of day and the light conditions  I can – or cannot – see shadows. Ephemerals themselves they change moment by moment. If there is wind there will be wind patterns on the snow. Changes in temperature will stiffen or soften the snow, causing it to change shape. Animals will continue their migratory habits creating footprints, which allows me to play the guessing game: which animal was it? Where is she going? What is she eating in my garden? Fresh snow collects on tree branches and fence posts maintaining a miraculous balancing act. Icicles may hang from deciduous branches, or encase evergreen leaves. Sound is impacted by snow – open the door to your garden during a snowfall – there is a unique stillness only ever heard during a snowfall. The elements of wind temperature light  – create subtle but constant changes every moment of the day and night. We as gardeners strive to maintain some control over the appearance of our garden, but once again nature, this winter it is the snow, which eliminates all illusions that we can control our garden environment. More so than wind, or rain or drought – each of which we can attempt to influence with wind guards, or drainage or irrigation, there is nothing we can do to challenge the snow. We must let it fall and, mostly, let it lay where it falls. With time it will disappear, causing as much havoc in its departure as it did with its arrival. But, while it is here it is a marvel to behold. Snow is the greatest garden ephemeral. We cannot buy it, plant it, or schedule it. We cannot foresee it; we cannot influence its behavior. Many winters it does not visit. We can only marvel at it. With the passage of time and the seasons, the snow will go and our planned, purchased, manipulated and groomed gardens will reemerge. Come spring I will be reanimated by the re – growth of my garden, and all the hard work it represents. I will feel rewarded. And I will appreciate the miracle of rebirth more this spring because of this historic snowfall. I will try to miss the snow when it’s gone, but I won’t. I will appreciate it while it’s here, and enjoy its myriad personalities. And remember that like everything in a garden, it will have its time, and then be gone.


Gaura 'So White'
Gaura ‘So White’

This being THE TIME OF YEAR to work in gardens, I’ve been remiss on blogging about gardens. Last year my garden was on tour, and next year my garden will be on tour. Since my garden was on tour last year, I didn’t do much renovating in the garden. Mostly I just maintained it so it would look beautiful for the tour, and the subsequent Garden Party I gave. I anticipate it will be more of the same next year SO this year I am renovating like a demon so make changes I want to see, and changes that need to be done. I’ve been very busy.


I have moved trees (or I should say, I had trees moved by two strong men). An Acer griseum / Paperbark Maple which I planted as a small tree 6 years ago and which has been stagnating since. When it was dug up it turns out the soil beneath it is very compacted, hence the reason for the stagnation. I moved it to a place of prominence in the front of the house, replacing a Quercus coccinea / Scarlet Oak which I planted as a sapling two years ago. It did very well its first year, but I guess this past winter was too much for it, because it died. Very sad. The other tree moved is a crabapple, Malus Coralburst. It too was planted by me as a small tree 6 years ago, same time as the Acer griseum. I put it in the wrong place, where as it grew wider the snow and the plow broke many branches each winter, so I moved it to a, hopefully, safer, more nurturing spot.


Moving Day
Moving Day

I’ve moved numerous shrubs and perennials: eight Whiteout Roses, three Daphne Carol Mackie, five Japanese Ilex, one Vibrunam plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariessi’, two Rosebud Azalea, two hydrangea arborescens “Annabelle’, a Chinese Tree Peony and multiple perennials. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to myself and I let the guy hired to move the roses move them when he wanted to, not when I thought it best. They quickly succumbed to heat, lack of water and bad handling, as did the daphnes. No real surprise there as daphnes are known to be difficult to transplant, but again I should have listened to myself and not the hired hand.

Dead Roses
Dead Roses

Good news is everything I moved myself is doing well. The tree peony I dug up and put in a pot because, once again, I had planted it in the wrong place and it was languishing. I think I will experiment and keep it in a pot for a year or two and see if it thrives in a pot. I know the Chinese often grow peonies in pots and I like the idea of moving the pot in and out of sight. Wish me luck on this. In the perennial department I transplanted six Thalictrum Lavender Towers, one Coreopsis ‘Star Cluster’ which the rabbits are continually snacking on, a handful of Aconitum carmichaelii / Monkshood, some daylilies, a Geranium pratense ‘Laura’, seemingly endless Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’, and the odd numbers of Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ which last fall I remember tossing into any convenient spot before the frost arrived.


Lupine Seedlings
Lupine Seedlings


I didn’t put down any mulch this year because I LOVE LOVE LOVE self seedlings – it’s like Christmas in spring time. Since there is no mulch I have been a slave to weeding but I have been rewarded this year with many self seeders: including Bleeding heart, hellebore, salvia, foxglove, geraniums, lupines, columbine, ladyss mantle (I am drowning in lady’s mantle, help!), and even two major plants, a Viburnam x burkwoodii ‘Maresii’ and an Aesculus parviflora/ Bottlebrush Buckeye seedling, both of which have gone to good homes in the gardens of fellow gardens. In addition to giving away these two plants, I dug up and gave away Stachys Helen von Stein, Monarda Alba, geranium nodosum, Pulmonaria /lungwort Raspberry Splash, two Annabelle hydrangeas, Penstemon digitalis Husker’s Red, an unidentified yellow iris which was sent to me by mistake from a mail order nursery instead of the Caesar’s brother I had asked for, and Hemerocallis/ Daylillies ‘Sunday Glove’ and ‘Joan Senior’. I dug those up because I finally found the daylily I have been looking for for several years, H. ‘Gentle Shepard’. It is the purest white of the daylilies, so I am told, and I have replaced the off-white ‘Sunday Glove’ and ‘Joan Senior’. I am trying hard to get my all white border to be all white, not off white, not pink tinged white, not white with yellow centers, but all white. It’s been an effort to find pure white perennials. I am slowly getting there.


Acer griseum's New location
Acer griseum’s New location

Which brings me to what I have planted new this year. In addition to the H. ‘Gentle Shepard’, there are some new Astible, several new salvia x sylvestris ‘Schneehugel/Snow Hill’ to fill out a mass planting of them, a Veronicastrum Alba, Dianthus Greystone, 15 Papaver Orientalis Royal Wedding, a Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’, a Cimicifuga, three Rodgersia, a bergenia which I would not have chosen myself but it came as a freebee from Avant Gardens as a thank you for my order and I think I like it, a blue hosta from a friend who is redoing her garden, some type of Japanese holly which I should know the name of since I only brought it a month ago, 12 Gaura So White, several Geranium ‘St Ola’, 7 or 9 new Astantia Roma (which the rabbits are not eating this year, because I am spraying to keep the rabbits from eating it so is the first year I have Astrantia blooms after 5 or more years of trying) unidentified columbine which I brought at the nursery one day when I was in the mood to plant, they turn out to be purple…there are worse things to happen, several more Salvia Eveline, which is a terrific plant, random red poppies because I love poppies and I lost a bunch recently and my spring garden is a little lessened by their absence, some foxgloves which I regret buying and planting and watering and nurturing because they are small and an unappealing color. Give me the tall glorious foxgloves! Some lily of the valley which I know, I know is hardly a connoisseurs perennial but I have an island spot beneath three River Birches which I have planted with Viburnam x burkwoodii Mohawk, Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’, and Clethra ‘Sixteen Candles’ so it is a woodland scented walk area and I thought why not lily of the valley? They will keep the weeds down and will scent the walk wonderfully. The lilies of the valley are interplanted with Podophyllum peltatum /Mayapples , Lamprocapnos spectablilis / Bleeding hearts, Alchemilla mollis / Lady’s mantle and Lathyrus vernus / Spring Vetch so time will reveal which of these plants will dominate, or if they will all get along together and share the space nicely.


New bed of Gillenia
New bed of Gillenia

The area in front of my shed had azalea purple gem planted, but all six died this year so out they came and in went 6 Gillenia trifoliate or Porteranthus trifoliate, what it is called depends on who you talk to, both names work. I have planted it before and lost it all, so I am trying again with large, quart sized plants and spraying so the bunnies won’t eat them. We’ll see. They are a beautiful plant, with spring flowers and fall color with the added bonus of being a native, because I like to plant native when possible. Next to the Gillenia are two Epimedium Cherry Tart. Next year I will add more Epimedium Cherry Tart to the bed. Epimediums are delightful plants and I know some people love them so much they collect them. I am still an Epimedium novice and as such am staggered by the great number of cultivars! Four years or so ago now when I went out to Darrell Probst’s nursery for the first (and so far only time) on one of the rare occasions it was opened I was overwhelmed with the decision of what to get, so, lucky for me, Darrell was there and I asked him. He told me one of his favorites was Cherry Tart so I brought five of them…one survived (my fault, again) but I fell in love with this Epimedium and try to use it when I can find it. It has a beautiful flower, lovely leaves, nice fall color and it spreads, although slowly. Everything one could ask for in a perennial


Malus 'Coralburst' transplanted
Malus ‘Coralburst’ transplanted

Ok I this just about brings me up to date on what I have be doing in the garden since April – did I mention weeding and pruning? Anyway, it’s good to look back and see just what I’ve done (or at least what I remember I’ve done) this year so far. Next post I will tell you about where I’ve been.  What have you been up to in your garden?