Thursday, February 4, 2016

National Garden Bureau Announces 2016: The Year of the Delphinium

Each year the National Garden Bureau selects one annual, one perennial, one bulb crop and one edible as their "Year of the" crops. Each is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile. The National Garden Bureau announces 2016 as The Year of the Delphinium.

"Delphinium is a perennial favorite as the tall spikes of blue flowers in the background of a stately English or cottage garden.  The modern delphinium flower may be a single or double rosette in popular blue or red, pink, white, violet and yellow.  Many of the flowers have white or black centers known as 'bees.'

"Delphinium, a native throughout the Northern Hemisphere includes about 300 species in the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) Family.  The name 'delphinium' originated with the ancient Greeks who thought the shape of the new flower bud with spur resembled that of a dolphin’s nose.  Delphinium is often called by the common name 'larkspur' which is shared between the perennial Delphinium and the annual Consolida species.

"Homeowners can begin their delphiniums from seed or as a plant from a garden retailer. They are very easy to grow in the northern climates with very little maintenance. As a perennial, they tolerate cool northern climates and overwinter with ease as a hardy perennial in Zone 4. Some misunderstanding about non-hardiness actually comes from hot and humid climates, which the plants cannot tolerate for long periods of time. Delphiniums act more like annuals in the southern climates.
"After the first flush of flowers, plants can be cut back and a second set of flowers will appear on shorter stems. Mulching is not recommended, because it can cause stem rot. After heavy frost, late-fall early-winter plants need to be cut back and cleaned up. Winter protection is not necessary, but plants can be covered with hay or leaves to protect the crowns. This protection needs to be removed very early in spring to maintain a healthy Delphinium in the garden. In natural snow-covered areas, no extra protection is needed.
Learn more about Delphiniums from the National Garden Bureau.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

The 81st Annual Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens

The 81st Annual Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens is just around the corner, running from Thursday, 31 March through Sunday, 3 April, 2016. Early-bird tickets for walking tours are available until February 29. “The Tour” is presented by The Women of Christ Church Anglican and the Historic Savannah Foundation in cooperation with Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Garden Club to benefit select charities.

You will enjoy “rare opportunities to enter some of Savannah’s finest private homes and experience the architecture, furnishing and collections that have been treasured by families for generations…but
seldom seen by the public. These properties have been meticulously restored, preserving the character of the space yet allowing for the enjoyment of modern amenities. Several incorporate more current design trends.”

Each day of “The Tour” features a different section of Savannah’s Historic Landmark District. Similarly, visitors can choose from wonderful seminars and events. Seminars include “Interior Design, Southern Style”, “Secrets of Preserving a City” and “Antique Furniture 101: The Basics”. Special events include a Welcome Reception, “Lafayette Fete” at the Isaiah Davenport House, Compline – Saying Good Night to God (Gregorian Chant by Candlelight) at Christ Church Anglican, a Tour of Bonaventure Cemetery – Savannah’s famous necropolis, and trolley tours of Savannah.

Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA

Now is the time to purchase early-bird tickets. Order online at

Note: Homes pictured may not be included in the tour.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Fay Hyland Botanical Plantation Arboretum

Dr. Fay Hyland at the Fay Hyland Botanical Plantation

Trying to find a parking place to visit The Fay Hyland Botanical Plantation Arboretum - aka Fay Hyland Botanical Garden - on the campus of the University of Maine, Orono, is difficult. Trying to learn about the man is more so.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign! You’d think that after yesterday’s hippies gained control of universities, signs would have practically disappeared. Nope. There are more restrictions than ever.

I parked behind a fraternity house nearby. It was late morning. There was no apparent activity. I supposed the brothers were very studious and in class. I hoped my car wouldn’t be towed.

To learn something about the namesake, Fay Hyland, I had to search deeply. One would think that more information about him would be readily available in the online university web site. Not so. Perhaps Dr. Hyland seems irrelevant now.

According to, Fay Hyland was born March 10, 1900 in Portland, Michigan, the son of Mr. Charles Hyland and Lovinia Florence Crowell Hyland. Two of Charles and Lovinia’s children died in infancy. Lovinia was a Gold Star Mother, having also lost a child in war.

“Fay graduated from Portland High School, Portland, MI, and continued his education at Michigan State University, where he obtained his B.S. He continued his education at the University of Maine, obtaining his M.S. degree. Mr. Hyland did graduate work at Harvard University.

“During his career, he also participated in advance programs of the Brookhaven National Atomic Energy Laboratory, Syracuse University and the University of Massachusetts. He also authored many scientific publications.

“Fay initiated and developed the Botanical Plantation of the University of Maine. He taught there for 50 years, from 1926 until his retirement in 1965. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Maine in 1965. Dr. Hyland died in 1984.”

Stillwater River, Orono, ME
The Fay Hyland Botanical Plantation Arboretum was established in 1934. It’s located along the Stillwater River - a side channel of the Penobscot - affording beautiful views upstream and down.  Many of the trees are tagged for identification. Undeveloped paths and remnants of old drives allow visitors to walk through the collection. The 1.8 mile Stillwater River Trail on the opposite bank follows an old rail line constructed in the 1860s which transported wood products to nearby Bangor and coal to the university. A few relics remain.

Whether one is interested in silviculture, botany, the environment, the man, local history, or a nice place to stroll outdoors, The Fay Hyland Botanical Plantation Arboretum is a great place to walk among tall trees.

Follow me to see what grows there.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

National Garden Bureau says 2016 is the Year for Begonias

Year of the Begonia
National Garden Bureau says 2016 is the Year for Begonias
"With over 1,700 different species, Begonia (family Begoniaceae) is the fifth most diverse class of plants.  Begonias are often found wild from South and Central America to India. It is impossible to know exactly where they originated, but stories of plants matching their description date back to 14th century China. Begonias officially got their name in 1690 when a French botanist, Charles Plumier, named them after a fellow French botanist, Michel B├ęgon."

" Here are the major classes that you will see in North American garden retailers:
  • Begonia semperflorens-cultorum or “wax begonias “are the most common. Plants are small (8-12”) mounds with rounded leaves and blooms. Flowers range from white to scarlet red.
  • Begonia tuberosa (tuberous begonias) typically have large flowers in a broad color range. Flowers can be huge and double. Since the plants are monoecious, there are always both single (male) and double (female) flowers on the same plant. The leaves are usually asymmetrical, hairy or fuzzy and have a serrated edge.   
  • Begonia boliviensis is more heat tolerant than other types.  The plant branches cascade down in hanging baskets or window boxes. The leaves are similar in shape to tuberous begonias but are narrower and smooth. The flower has long, strap-like petals forming a soft trumpet.
  • Begonia hiemalis, also called elatior or Reiger begonia, typically have small to medium double flowers in a wide range of colors. These are often sold around the holidays.
  • Begonia masoniana has bold color patterns on leaves that are textured with puckers and appear coarse.
  • Begonia rhizomatous has thick, fleshy stems with large, colorful leaves. The leaves can be round or heavily lobed like a grape leaf. Some have small white flowers in the spring, and a few varieties bloom all summer. 
  • Begonia rex are grown for their beautiful leaves, which are quite hairy or fuzzy and usually covered with multicolored, intricate swirled designs.
  • Begonia hybrida is used by plant breeders to show that a variety is a cross between two different classes.
 "No matter which type of begonia you choose, these plants are sure to bring beauty and interest to your garden."

Read more at National Garden Bureau.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

We have a serious erosion problem on a slope beside our driveway.

Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltonii' - aka 'Blue Rug'

We have a serious erosion problem on a slope beside our driveway. We like ‘Blue Rug’ junipers. Will they help stop erosion?

‘Blue Rug’ junipers – aka Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ -  are fine for erosion control, but as with any ground cover, they hold soil best when they are mature. Since you have a “serious erosion problem”, you’ll have to take some measures to hold the soil in place until the junipers grow. 

I suggest you spread an erosion control blanket over the area, and then plant the junipers through it.
Erosion control blankets are available in several biodegradable materials including, straw, jute and coconut fiber in natural colors. The materials are held together with unobtrusive netting.  Water is allowed to percolate into the soil beneath while holding it in place. The ground cover plants will mature eventually to hide the blanket. The materials will decompose.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Wells Japanese Garden, Newberry, SC

Torii, Wells Japanese Garden, Newberry, SC

Be silent my dear, and enjoy the scene 
as we walk in this Japanese Garden serene.
- From Walking In A Japanese Garden, Joyce Hemsley and John William McGrath III 

The Wells Japanese Garden in Newberry, SC is a fine place to rest the mind and refresh the senses if traveling through town. It’s small, occupying about one half acre. You might have to ask directions. Then you might have to ask again.

It once belonged to the Wells family. W. Fulmer Wells (1903-1980), a young student of architecture, was captivated with the Japanese Tea Garden that he’d visited near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. So, he designed this small oasis for his family’s estate in Newberry. His father, Henry Burton Wells, Sr. (1874-1940), had it built in 1930.

The senior Wells was well-known in town, having joined the local fire brigade at the age of 14 as a coal cart boy. He served the Excelsior Fire Company in several capacities, including Fire Chief from 1905.

Tea House, Wells Japanese Garden, Newberry, SC

The garden is entered through a side entrance off the street, above which a sign explains a bit of its history. Main features include a stone temple, a torii, cast lanterns, small ponds planted with lotus and Japanese iris, and spanned by bridges in a Japanese style. A teahouse provides a quiet place to rest. Indigenous and exotic species include Japanese maples, crapemyrtles, bamboo, ferns, hostas, gardenias, Japanese euonymus, nandinas and bald cypress.

Garden maintenance apparently occurs when someone from town notices that the place looks a little run-down. It’s about time. Nevertheless, it’s worth visiting to enjoy a few minutes of serenity.

Wells Japanese Garden was donated to the City of Newberry in 1971 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It is open daily.

Historic Newberry, SC
Historic Newberry is a good place to enjoy a few hours browsing antique shops and other locally-owned stores. Its architecture, typical of many small towns, is charming.

Newberry Opera House, Newberry, SC
The Newberry Opera House features many seasonal productions. Restaurants nearby, such as Figaro, are ideal for dinner before or after the opera.

Follow me now to see more of Wells Japanese Garden in Newberry, SC.

Entrance, Wells Japanese Garden, Newberry, SC
"Temple", Wells Japanese Garden, Newberry, SC
Lotus blossom, Wells Japanese Garden, Newberry, SC
Woodwardia ferns, Wells Japanese Garden, Newberry, SC
Wells Japanese Garden, Newberry, SC
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Thursday, December 3, 2015

A question about using landscape fabric.

My lawn maintenance man wants to put down landscape fabric to stop weeds from coming up around my shrubs. Do you think that’s a good idea?

I’m not a big fan of landscape fabrics and similar weed barriers, for the following reasons:
  • They might prevent weeds from germinating beneath them, but permeable ones don’t prevent seeds from germinating on top and growing down through them; 
  • Weed barriers on slopes might not let water perk down through them fast enough, instead letting the water drain where it shouldn’t; 
  • Edges of weed barriers can become exposed and tangle in lawnmower blades. 

I much prefer applying plenty of organic mulch.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Must-Have Plants: Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern - Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'

Must-have plants are among the best for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Name(s): Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum', Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Japanese Painted Fern

Flower Color: None

Bloom Time: None

Foliage: Herbaceous, metallic gray, reddish/bluish blush

Height/Spread: 12 inches to 18 inches x 12 inches to 18 inches.

Climate Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full shade.

Soil Condition: Moist to well-drained, loamy, pH 6.1 to 7.5

Features: Colorful foliage, deer resistant, insect resistant, disease resistant.

Uses: Massed planting, naturalizing, fern collections, woodland gardens, shade gardens and borders.

Comments: Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum', also known as Japanese Painted Fern, is one beautiful perennial. Emerging fronds are metallic gray with reddish/bluish blush. Mature fronds hold their color well and contrast nicely with the emerging fronds. Japanese Painted Fern is winter dormant. It forms clumps.

Japanese Painted Fern is deer, insect and disease resistant. Mature height is 12 inches to 18 inches. Performs well in USDA zones 4 to 9. Japanese Painted Fern requires moist soil, but take care not to over-water. It does well in partial shade to full shade. Space 18 inches to 24 inches. Recommended pH is 6.1 to 7.5.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

FAQ: How far should I plant hollies from the house?

How far should I plant hollies from the house?

Typically, foundation plantings are installed too close to structures making building maintenance and pruning difficult. Humidity between the plants and buildings encourages mold and mildew on windows and walls. Tall plants growing too close can rub and damage soffits. Furthermore, ornamental trees and large shrubs can undermine and compromise the integrity of foundations.

To figure planting distance, determine the mature height and diameter of the species you intend to install. At minimum, determine the height and diameter you intend to keep it. Divide the diameter by 2 to figure the radius. Add at least 3’ to the radius. That point should be the center of your planting hole.

“But I don’t want the plants to be that far out in the yard,” you might protest. Well, choose smaller plants.

“I’ll keep them pruned,” you might convince yourself. Maybe you will; maybe you won’t.

“My neighbors’ foundation plantings are closer to their homes,” you might exclaim. Well, that’s their problem.

Design your foundation beds to a generous size. Your foundation plants can realize their potential. Your landscape will appear fuller and richer. 

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Monday, October 12, 2015

What is this growing in the back of my yard? Someone said it's a "Devil's Walking Stick."

Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa) aka “Hercule’s Club” and “Angelica Tree” – is a mighty impressive native American plant. Six words – devil’s, stick, spinosa, Hercules, club and Angelica – should complete the picture. It grows in USDA climate zones 4-9 in slightly acidic to neutral soil with full to partial sun exposure.

There are some fascinating facts you should know about Aralia spinosa.
  • It should not be confused with False Aralia (Dizygotheca elegantissima) - pronounced "dizzygoTHEEKa" - though it might compare with the inelegant Dizzygoths some raise in their homes;
  • It is covered head-to-toe with nasty, fiery spines;
  • It is frightening, in its own way;
  • The name “Hercules Club” was probably given by some literate person who knew the awesome legend of Hercules and of the sculpture of Hercules with his club;
  • Species in the Angelica family often bear flowers with heavenly fragrances;
  • According to Wikipedia, “The sprinkling of it all around the outside of the home is meant for protection”;
  • If you cultivate Aralia spinosa around the perimeter of your garden, few trespassers will dare to enter;
  • Aralia spinosa is maintenance-free, needing no pruning;
  • Dizzygoths, however, should be pruned low and very often.

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