Wordless Wednesday

A friend from another part of the country remarked last week that we have very different plants here.

If I had to describe the quintessential New England shrub, this is it: some version of a  large rhododendron in pink, mauve, white or red. They’re everywhere right now in sizes from about 2 feet tall to ones like this that tower over my head.

They do grow in other places too but they do extremely well here in our acidic soil and normally moist climate.

As a general rule,  they prefer at least partial shade, which most of us have  because we are gardening under mature tree canopies.

And since many of those trees tend to be evergreens, oaks, or maples which compete with the “rhodies” as we affectionately call them for moisture,  it’s a good thing that they tend to be shallowly rooted as well!

Here is a close view of the flower cluster. They are stunning this time of year.

Wordless Wednesday

Usually this time of year,  I have a photo of a deutzia called Chardonnay Pearls on here. It’s one of my favorites and it’s in bloom now.  But I thought I would focus  (literally as well) on something different this year.

This is a close up of some things in the wildlife garden.  The chives are just coming into bloom.  I let this clump bloom because I have a potted clump up by the house that I use for cooking. I have another blooming clump in my vegetable garden.  You might have seen it Monday.

Blooming herbs are not only pretty but they are great for pollinators.  They often have just the sort of flowers that pollinators adore.

Of course if you intend to cook with your herbs,  you don’t want them to flower.  But most perennial herbs are so abundant that you can easily split them, keep a clump close by your kitchen for cooking and plant the rest elsewhere for pollinators.

Everyone wins!

Picking Good Plants–Round Two

On Friday I talked about picking a plant that looked most like every other plant. This is a good rule no matter what type of plant you are buying.

Today I want to get into a few more specifics about  what to do when you get to the garden center–and let’s presume you are at a garden center today, simply because  it will have more signage about varieties and possibly more information on the plant tags that will be accurate for your location.

What do I mean by that? When I go to a box store, I am told that the plant “lantana” is a perennial. That’s technically true. It is not, however, a perennial for me here in New England.

I know that in some parts of the country lantana is considered an invasive pest and can grow to the size of a shrub. Here, we grow it as a nicely behaved hanging basket that has flowers that feed our butterflies and hummingbirds and the plant dies at the first hard freeze. See what I mean now about “for your location?”

So, when you walk into your garden center, depending on where you are, you might find lantana in a hanging basket, you might find it with the perennials, or you might not find it at all because it is invasive in your part of the country. There you are. But chances are, you’re not going to just find it willy-nilly labeled “perennial.”

I know the box stores are working on this–and one reason has to do with their guarantee for a year. They don’t want New England customers bringing in their dead lantana the following spring and asking for a refund–and rightly so! No one is happy in that scenario.

Enough plants die in our now unpredictable winters that they shouldn’t have to give for plants that are mis-labeled. But if they mis-label them, well, they get what they deserve.

Apparently I have gone on long enough about why you should be going to the garden center for your spring plant shopping and not a box store–at least if you are a brand new plant buyer. We’ll talk about what to look for on Friday.

Plant Expectations


No, this is NOT weeds. You are looking at a kolkwitzia, some echinacea and peony foliage, and behind that, a rather large white hibiscus (with red throat) that is supposed to be a dwarf called Lil’ Kim.

The Kolkwitzia (which is in desperate need of a trim but I have had a little issue with my shoulder so that’s not happening this fall) is reaching upward to its full height of 8′. Its mature height is supposed to be 6-8′ so that is right about where it should be.

Lil’ Kim, on the other hand, as I said, was supposed to be a dwarf. You know how I am always saying “plants can’t read?”  Apparently no one told this plant that she was supposed to stay dwarf!


What’s really unfortunate about this Lil’ Kim situation is that I have her “sister” plant just the other side of the kolkwitzia.  She is staying dwarf–but look what she’s doing! She’s turning purple! What the heck?!

Apparently no one told this version of the Lil’ Kim that she was supposed to be white and not purple. Oh dear! Again, plants, can’t read! (And no, you’re still not looking at weeds, for the most part–this is agastache and milkweed over here. I had to step carefully around lots of bees to get this photo!)

So when I talk about buying “tried and true plants” (and full disclosure–I did not buy these plants at all–they were sent to me as test plants) you can see what I mean. Sometimes, we want to give the growers a couple of years to “get the kinks out” of the plants before we put them into our gardens.

Particularly with shrubs, you can save yourself a lot of heartache that way!


Self-Sown Hydrangeas? Really?

A few posts backed I talked about my gardens being weedy. Not only will you see that in these photos but you will see some of the most wilted plants you will ever see. That’s how far we let the plants go before we actually water at our house (as opposed to the neighbors who are watering lawns 3 times a day.) I figure we can balance things out that way.


When I first started noticing these small white blooming hydrangeas, I thought, ‘did I plant those?” It’s not like me to keep such poor records that I don’t have a record of hydrangeas in the garden–after all, they are one of my favorite plants and I must ahve 35 different varieties!


And I’d see things like this–small hydrangeas that were clearly separate plants from all the other plants around them, but with no tag or other identification. I was mystified.

(By the way, don’t you love my “habitat” of weeds?)


And they were everywhere–at different spots in the garden–and they all bloomed white. That’s when it dawned on me. These were self-sown hydrangeas! What a concept!

I don’t think I will get anymore this year because I deadheaded everything before the hurricane that thankfully never arrived. I didn’t want the winds to damage the few blooming plants that I had in the garden this year.

But what a nice bonus a few years of letting the garden go “weedy” has brought me. Also notice all the ferns as well. Once I get some rains and am able to clean this mess out, I will have some great plants left!