March 30, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Lecture Tuesday night, April 9, at 7:30 at the Manchester Community Center: Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden.
Cabbage White Butterflies Mating in the Native Flowering Dogwood Foliage
The lecture tonight is based on the book of the same name, which I wrote and illustrated. In it I reveal how to create the framework, a living tapestry of flora, fauna, and fragrance that establishes the soul of the garden. Using a selection of plant material that eliminates the need for pesticides and herbicides, and guided by the plants forms, hues, and horticultural demands, we discuss how to create a succession of blooms from April through November. This presentation is as much about how to visualize your garden, as it is about particular trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and annuals. Illuminated with photographs, and citing poetry and quotations from Eastern and Western cultural influences, this presentation engages us with an artist’s eye while drawing from practical experience.
For a complete lit of my 2013 – 2014 programs and workshops, visit the Programs and Lectures page of my blog.
The Cecropia Moth, or Robin Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is the largest moth found in North America, with a wingspan of up to six inches. He is perched on the foliage of our beautiful native Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay Magnolia), one of several of the caterpillar’s food plants. You can tell that he is a male because he has large, feathery antennae, or plumos, the better for detecting scent hormones released by the female. This photo was taken in our garden in early June.
The Manchester Community Center is located at 40 Harbor Point, Manchester.
March 30, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Snapshots from last night’s fabulously fun opening at Cape Ann Giclee.
Eaves Family left to right ~ Yianni, Anna, Dimitri, and James
Thank you Anna and James Eaves for hosting the First Ever Good Morning Gloucester/FOB/Cape Ann Gilcee photography show, running now through April 7th. The quality of work in the show is simply outstanding. Come on over and have a look, meet Anna and James, and learn about the services Cape Ann Giclee provides for all your photography and fine art reproduction needs. Cape Ann Giclee is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm. While the GMG show is up through April 7th, they are also open on Saturdays from 10am to 5pm.
October 21, 2012 § 2 Comments
Solution #1 for Women
It was recommended that I purchase a pair of reading glasses one level less than my ordinary prescription, to help prevent eye strain while at the computer. I was utterly dismayed at the outrageously expensive price of eye glasses at the optometrist, as well as at the retail shops. I simply do not understand why a slender sliver of mass produced plastic has to cost $300. plus dollars, without the lens. Less expensive alternatives can be found at the pharmacy and places like Target, but I have never had much luck with fit or in finding an attractive style.
Without much searching I entered the Kate Spade website. Price for reading glasses: sixty-eight dollars. I ordered several versions thinking that I would keep the one I liked best. I absolutely loved them–comfortable, well-made, and in beautiful shades of tortoise shell. I liked both so much I kept the two pairs. The glasses come in a cheery apple green case, which makes them easy to locate within the deep depths of your purse.
Solution #2 For Men and Women
When my husband asked for help in finding a new pair of glasses, I was more than happy to assist. He has owned the exact same Buddy Hollyish style glasses for well over thirty years. To emphasize how non-materialistic is my husband–he has also owned, and it has been in continuous use, the very same key chain, a brass tag from the Savoy Grill at the Savoy Hotel in London, for over thirty-five years.
I had read about Warby Parker eyewear and thought Tom would love the fact that he did not have to go shopping (his absolute least favorite activity). He went to the Warby Parker website and picked out five pair in five minutes, part of their home try-on system. The trial glasses arrived in a few days. Shipping is entirely free, both directions with both the trial glasses, and with the pair ordered. Tom’s eye doctor phoned in his prescription and the glasses arrived within two weeks, for the grand total of 95.00. The new glasses look great and he reports they are much lighter and more comfortable than the heavier glass of his old frames. And they come with a smart looking hard clamshell case and cleaning cloth.
For every pair of glasses sold by Warby Parker, a pair is provided to someone in need.
iPhone 4s self photo
October 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
Several weeks ago I visited my friend Kent at his wood working shop in Cambridge. You may recall that we featured his wife Lyda Kuth and her beautiful new film, Love and Other Anxieties, this past summer.
It was my lucky day because Kent had just completed a commission for this exquisite table and was setting it up to show his friend Norm Abram (This Old House). The table is both a dining table, when fully assembled, and a collection of stand alone side tables. I thought readers would like to see not only snapshots of the table, but the way in which Kent documented the fabrication of the custom table–an exceptional example of both an instructional how-to and marketing tool for designers and builders. From the initial concept mock-up to the laser engraved labels, Kent beautifully photographed every step of the construction process in Link to Custom Table Fabrication Process.
August 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
Introducing ‘Henry Eiler’s’ Quilled Sweet Coneflower ~
New to our garden this year is the Quilled Sweet Coneflower. The finely quilled sunny yellow petals are simply lovely, as is the overall shape of the plant. The wildflower is a North American native and bears the name of the southern Illinois horticulturist and prairie restoration specialist who found it growing in a railroad prairie remnant.
When lightly rubbed, the leaves of Rudbeckia subtomentosa reveal their sweet vanilla scent. I’ll let you know if it attracts bees, butterflies, and songbirds when the center florets open.
Railroad Prairie Remnants
“…the only remnant of any virgin, unplowed prairie that remains is along railroad tracks. When the railroads were originally built in the 1800′s, if they were going over a natural prairie, all they had to do was lay down the wooden crossties, pack in bed fill, and lay the rails….the remaining right-of-way remained essentially undisturbed. In many locales, a road also was constructed parallel to new tracks, so that the few hundred feet of railroad right-of-way trapped between the tracks and the road remained unplowed to this day, and in many areas has reserved a remarkable diversity of prairie species. In most areas, accidental fires happen fairly regularly, which enhances the vigor of the prairie vegetation.” Larry Lowman, Arkansas nurseryman and native plants specialist.
June 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Reminder to save the date ~ A week from Tuesday, on the evening of June 12th, I am giving a tour of the butterfly gardens at Willowdale Estate. We will be showing my short film about the gardens at Willowdale and Briar’s delicious refreshments will be served. I am very excited to share the gardens and show how to translate this information to your own garden. I hope you can join us for what promises to be a lovely evening!
R.S.V.P. to Info@WillowdaleEstate.com.
June 3, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Trumpeting the Trumpet
Early blooms are an important feature for the vine planted to lure hummingbirds. You want to provide tubular-shaped flowers in shades of red and orange and have your hummingbird feeders hung and ready for the earliest of the northward-migrating scouts. If nothing is available, they will pass by your garden and none will take residence. Hummingbirds can easily distinguish red contrasted against green. We go so far as to plant vivid Red Riding Hood tulips beneath our hummingbird feeders, which hang from the bows of the flowering fruit trees. Although hummingbirds do not nectar from the tulips, the color red draws them into the garden and the flowering fruit trees and sugar water provide sustenance for travel-weary migrants.
Lonicera sempervirens, also called Trumpet and Coral Honeysuckle, is a twining or trailing woody vine native to New England. Trumpet Honeysuckle is not at all fussy about soil and is drought tolerant. Plant in full sun to part shade. If Trumpet Honeysuckle becomes large and ungainly, prune hard to the ground—it grows rapidly and a vigorous pruning will only encourage more flowers.
‘Major Wheeler’ flowers in a deeper red than that of the carmine of ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’ ‘John Clayton’ is a cheery, cadmium yellow, a naturally occurring variant of Lonicera sempervirens, and was originally discovered growing wild in Virginia. The blossoms of ‘Mandarin’ are a lovely shade of Spanish orange.
Trumpet Honeysuckle has myriad uses in the landscape. Cultivate to create vertical layers, in a small garden especially. Plant Lonicera sempervirens to cover an arbor, alongside a porch pillar or to weave through trelliage. Allow it clamber over an eyesore or down an embankment. Plant at least one near the primary paths of the garden so that you can enjoy the hummingbirds that are drawn to the nectar-rich blossoms. I practically bump into the hummingbirds as they are making their daily rounds through the garden flora. Did you know they make a funny squeaky sound? I began to take notice of their presence in our garden, when at my office desk one afternoon in late summer, with windows open wide, I heard very faint, mouse-like squeaks. I glanced up from my work, fully expecting to see a mouse, and was instead delighted to discover a female Ruby-throat outside my office window, nectaring at the vines. Trumpet Honeysuckle not only provides nectar for the hummingbirds, it also offers shelter and succulent berries for a host of birds.
Lonicera sempervirens is a caterpillar food plant for the Snowberry Clearwing moth.
May 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Click any photo to view slideshow-
For weeks I had planned to photograph the tulips in bloom at Willowdale, but only in the late afternoon sun. Each afternoon I headed out, the sky grew overcast. Last Monday the sun shown gloriously the entire day.
Fortunately I caught the tail end of North Shore Wedding Magazine photographing their Premier Issue in the gardens at Willowdale. North Shore Wedding Magazine is a brand new biannual publication featuring quality North Shore wedding professionals and venues, and is the sister publication to New Hampshire Wedding Magazine.
Sarah Boucher’s (Willowdale’s Planning Manager) lovely table styling for the North Shore Wedding Magazine photo shoot.
Kristina Hathaway with model
I hope this does not sound boastful however am mentioning because I just love it when people understand the design intention of a project. Kristina Hathaway remarked that she loved the feminine quality of the garden’s design juxtaposed against the masculine architecture of the stone mansion—music to my ears! The design challenges at Willowdale are multifold, yet rewarding, and from April 1st to until the first week of November you will find the gardens in bloom!
Tuesday evening, June 12, at 7:00 pm come join me in the gardens at Willowdale Estate. Enjoy refreshments and a tour of the garden, followed by a showing of my film “The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate.” RSVP to Info@Willowdale Estate.
Click any photo to view slide show-
April 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The first photo is of the petite and scented jonquil ‘Minnow,’ offset by the coral red Greigii species tulip. Both are low-growing, which makes them ideal for rock gardens, and both varieties reliably return annually. The second photo is an ever-increasing little patch of narcissus and I know not the cultivar’s name. It was a spring gift that had been purchased as a potted plant from the grocery market, then planted in the garden in early summer.
The third photo is perhaps my all time favorite and consider it the very best for several reasons. ‘Geranium’ is divinely scented—sweet with a hint of fresh lemon blossom; its color and shape meld beautifully with a wide range of spring flowering bulbs; and ‘Geranium’ not only reliably returns each spring, it also increases in number.
For more information about narcissus and jonquils, including a list of the most sweetly scented varieties, see my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden, page 178.
February 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
More About Depression Era Quilts ~
Reader Sandra G recently wrote: Thank you for Sharing the Antennae For Design Article and Photo. I recently acquired a Vintage Butterfly Quilt Top, that has me puzzled as to what the fabrics are and dating it ? The Butterflies appear to be very similar to your Photo. I am clueless about this Quilt Top and any help would be greatly appreciated. You have a great Website and Blog!
I asked her to send photos and she did send several. I do think this is a Depression era quilt for several reasons. The red butterfly especially, with the cheery cherry printed over the red and white polka dot fabric, looks very 1930s-1940s. All the butterflies are hand-embroidered, which also leads me believe the top is from the Depression era. It’s really a charming quilt top, and beautifully made. I love the design placement of the butterflies. The colors are so vibrant–the finished quilt will make any room sing. What a great find Sandra G.!
* Note ~ a quilt top is just that; the top only. Quilt tops are a wonderful way to acquire a vintage quilt. For some reason or other, the quilt was never completed. Ideally the quilt top would have been tucked away and stored out of direct sunlight–just waiting for some industrious- type to complete the job! If stored properly, you’ll find the vintage fabrics in their original vibrant colors as sunlight and repeated washings are most damaging to textiles.
February 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Happy Birthday Briar!
As many know from reading my posts, my dear friend, and one of my favorite design clients, is Briar Forsythe, proprietor of Willowdale Estate, located in Topsfield. I was delighted to attend Briar’s birthday party, which was a wine and food tasting event, and held in the new conservatory at Willowdale. Usually when there I am up to my elbows in design projects so it was a real pleasure to get a sense of how it feels to be a guest.
The party started at 4:00 and the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the conservatory windows lent a warm and welcoming glow to the event. The service was absolutely impeccable (do you find that is not often easy to say?). Chef Joe Joyce and staff had prepared simply the most elegant and divine tasting courses, paired with wines that perfectly complemented each dish. All the wines were delicious and I can imagine they would be great paired with any number of meals.
Unfortunately, I did not take a snapshot of the first course, which was a Duxbury Oyster with Champagne Foam and Blood Orange Caviar, served with a sparkling Dibon Cava Brut. I love sparkling wines and found this perfectly not overly sweet. I am not going to go on and on telling you how super delicious was all–it was–and hope the photos give an idea. The wines were provided by Geoffrey Fallon.
Visit Willowdale’s website—they are a full service special events venue, specializing in their own in-house fabulous catering. Tours are offered throughout the year and many Gloucester companies do business with Willowdale, including several of our local florists and photographers.
Click last photo to see slideshow of all party pics.
February 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Reblogged from Good Morning Gloucester ~
Birth of Pop Art
In 1962 Jim Dine’s (1935- ) work was included, along with Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Dowd, Philip Hefferton, Joe Goode, Edward Ruscha, and Wayne Thiebaud in the historically important and ground-breaking New Paintings of Common Objects curated by Walter Hopps at the Norton Simon Museum. This exhibition is considered one of the first Pop Art exhibitions in America. - wiki
Images courtesy Google image search.
February 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Winter is the time of year when I especially enjoy working on interior home improvement projects. This fabulous vintage dressing table and mirror set were found at a local antique shop. I wasn’t planning on a dressing table for my new sewing room/guest bedroom, but after seeing the dressing table —it was going for a song—I made a split second decision and purchased the pair.
Aren’t all the compartments in the drawers wonderfully practical? You can’t find anything made like this in today’s marketplace. I love that it is a very substantial width and height. The original and smaller circa 1930′s dressing table has had a larger custom-made top cut in a curved design. The whimsical glass tabletop lends a Hollywood Regency feel to the piece. The chest of drawers needs a fresh coat of paint (or several), but I will have to wait for spring when the windows can be left open to tackle that part of the project. A new length of fabric is needed for under the glass as well. Perhaps a silk moiré in pale watery green or blue as the thick glass has a greenish cast.
For the new skirt, I had a bolt of Ralph Lauren floral chintz on hand, which gives it a rather Nick and Nora meets summer cottage look, but I think too, in the spring, I’ll make another skirt, perhaps this one in sheer white cotton voile or dotted Swiss.
If I can help you with your interior design project send an email or give me a call. I look forward to hearing for you!
Thanks to Joey for showing me how he creates videos in one take. I couldn’t shoot this video in one take as I had to take the skirts on and off, but this is definitely a super fun and streamlined way of creating videos.
I almost forget to mention that inside one of the drawers was a heavy, solid lead engraved plaque-award given to Mrs. William D. Vogel by the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild for outstanding service to the arts. Doing a very quick Google search, I didn’t find too much about Mrs. Vogel, however her father was Ralph Harman Booth, publisher of a large newspaper chain, Booth Newspapers, and Detroit Institute of Art philanthropist.
Quite possibly this lovely dressing table was Mrs. Vogel’s, or her mother’s, Mrs. Harman, or possibly her daughter’s summerhouse dressing table. I would love to know the provenance of the piece, especially as the table top and chest set appears to be someone’s home-made and creative combination.
February 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
Gloucester: A Community of Neighborhoods
Juni and Maggie Rosa discuss design elements of the Eastern Point panel.
Yesterday I had the joy to meet Juni Van Dyke and several members of the Rose Baker Senior Center art class. Juni and her students are working on a project titled Gloucester: A Community of Neighborhoods. Each fabric panel measures approximately five-foot square and illustrates through iconic imagery characteristics unique to Gloucester neighborhoods. The banner’s design in it’s entirety, along with the individual artist’s whimsical designs and choice of fabrics, is utterly captivating and a vibrant visual feast.
This is not the first grand scale project of it’s kind created by Juni and the fiber artists at the Senior Center. The banner titled From Sea to Shining Sea: Celebration of the American Landscape that is currently on view at the Senior Center lunchroom was also exhibited at the Lexington Heritage Center for six months, and it measures nine feet in height by thirty feet in width.
Lois Stillman’s elegant rendition of the birch tree clump at Niles Pond
Eastern Point panel detail with Mother Ann and butterflies.
I am honored to have been invited to create a butterfly for the Eastern Point panel although I think they have it beautifully covered. The whimsical swirl of butterflies in the upper left corner was created by students at the Eastern Point Day School and the beautifully detailed Monarchs fluttering around Beauport by Maggie Rosa.
Lois stands in front of the panel she designed. Note her genius interpretation of the Abram Piatt Andrew Bridge, replete with cars (click photo to see larger version) and including Nichols Candy House. Her deep love of trees is apparent in the beautiful and skilled manner she has stitched and pieced many different species of trees created for the panels.
As the work on Gloucester: A Community of Neighborhoods unfolds we’ll bring you more stories and detailed photos about this vibrant and captivating work of art in progress–there are simply too many beautiful tales to tell in one post!
Juni and Priscilla ~ Sunlight streams through the large picture windows of the second floor art room at the Rose Baker Senior Center.
Pauline, Juni, and Maggie
Juni and Maggie
January 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
We were again transported to another time and place—three fabulous and current films, in three weekends. Our wonderfully transportive film nights began with My Week with Marilyn, which takes place in 1956 and was shot in and around the outskirts of London,The Descendants, filmed in present day Honolulu, and last night we saw The Artist, which takes place in Hollywood, from 1927 to 1932. The Artist is a comedy and drama about George Valentin (Jean Dejardin), a silent film star, and Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a rising “talkie” star, who meet just as the silent film industry is collapsing. The film is partially silent and filmed to look like a black and white silent film. The costumes are to die for, the interior set designs are predominately Hollywood Regency, and the acting charming and sweet and utterly engaging. Uggie, the terrier, will steal your heart.
From an interview with Michael Hazavanicius, director and writer of The Artist, “I had many deep motivations for wanting to make a silent film. As a member of the audience, I absolutely love the way stories are told to me in a silent movie. It’s not a cerebral response. It’s more a child-like response. Because there’s no spoken language, the way the story engages your heart is special. It’s hypnotic, sensual, not at all cerebral, and I love that sensation as an audience member. My motivations as a director were much more selfish. For me, it was a great experience. It’s what cinema is about, in my opinion. I’m telling a story with images and music. With images, you have the actors, you have the sets, you have the costumes, the lights, everything, and that’s how you’re telling the story. You don’t need words for that. It’s the ultimate experience for a director to make a silent movie. I really wanted to try to do it.” Link to the full interview with Hazavanicius.
Jean Dujardin and Uggie
Techno notes for Joey and Marty: The Artist was made in the 1.33:1 screen ratio commonly used in the silent film era. Though presented in black-and-white, it was shot in color. All the technical details, including lenses, lighting and camera moves, were calibrated to get the look just right. To recreate the slightly sped-up look of 1920s silent films, the film was shot at a slightly lower frame rate of 22 fps as opposed to the standard 24 fps. Courtesy wiki.
Images courtesy Google search.
January 25, 2012 § 3 Comments
Antennae for Design The Descendants
Saturday night we went to see The Descendants. I found this movie enjoyable on many levels. The cinematography, of lush Hawaiian landscapes, was gorgeous. Lingering close-up shots of the actors and dreamy transitions added to the telling of story. Interesting, too, were the clips of suburban Honolulu neighborhoods. Never having been to Hawaii, the film was an eye opener—I don’t imagine Honolulu neighborhoods as a typical L.A. hillside suburb, nor downtown Honolulu with eight lane highways jammed with choking traffic.
Vintage Hawaiian Quilt
The set designs by Matt Callahan mirrored the story beautifully, and I found much inspiration in the furnishings and fabrics, including vintage rattan furniture, appliqué pillows, and bark cloth curtains. Several authentic Hawaiian quilts added a unique touch, and one quilt in particular played a leading role in the telling of the story. The main characters comprise a modern day family descended from a Hawaiian princess. Early in the film, we see a sunny golden yellow and white, slightly tattered and homey, quilt arrayed over the mom, who is lying in a hospital bed, in a coma and dying. The quilt has been brought from the family home to the hospital to provide comfort. In the final scene, the father and children make their way one by one to the family sofa, and eventually all are cozy under the same Hawaiian quilt, watching television together, and sharing bowls ice cream.
What we think of as the classic Hawaiian quilt is characterized by a bold, radial symmetric design (similar to that of a snowflake) or bold, stylized design drawn from nature. The motifs are often times cut from one piece of cloth, unlike patchwork quilts, which are assembled from many smaller pieces of fabric. The design motif is then appliquéd to a contrasting background. And, unlike patchwork quilts, with quilting stitches worked in parallel diagonal, straight, or circular lines, Hawaiian quilters practice “echo” or outline quilting. The stitches follow the inner and outer contours of the design motif.
Images courtesy of Google search.
The Descendants is based on the book of the same name, written by Kaui Hart Hemmings.
January 21, 2012 § Leave a Comment
January, February, March, and for we who dwell in New England, oftentimes well into April, are ideal months for interior home improvements. During these more homebound months I am actively looking for home and garden design inspiration. And, too, with projects that were shelved during the summer months because of seasonal work and summer guests, winter is a great time of year to focus on home improvements. I was inspired to write this weekly series after a recent visit to our home from Joey, Jill, and their two darling daughters. The family stopped by for hot chocolate and story time and Joey was non-stop with investigative questions and curiosity. It got me thinking about the impetus for writing my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!, which was originally conceived as a guide for young couples and new home owners (and someday, hopefully, for my children when they will one day have gardens of their own). My book grew to be more than that, but I am again thinking of the couples with young children that have recently moved to our East Gloucester neighborhood.
To think of it, we are following in an old Gloucester and northern seacoast tradition by tending to the interior of our homes during these winter months, in that of “house-pride.” The town’s carpenters, many of whom were master shipbuilders and shipwrights, would have had more free time during the winter months. Fine carpentry details are evident throughout our house, which was built in 1851. And, like many of Gloucester’s older houses, our home is graced with details created by the skilled plasterers that emigrated from Italy and settled on Cape Ann. Although a modest house, particularly by today’s “starter castle” standards, I wouldn’t trade our lovely 19th century home, with its quirky and elegant details (along with it’s many foibles) for all the world’s McMansions.
I propose Antennae for Design will encompass home and garden design inspiration, home improvement tips, feature interviews with local business owners who specialize in art and design, and after visiting local well-tended homes and gardens, sharing information found there. Let me know through the comment section or by emailing at email@example.com of your thoughts and any topic that you may find particularly relevant or of interest.
January 8, 2012 § 1 Comment
A recent find for one of my design clients is this pair of sweetly hand-painted Czechoslovakian lamps, with coordinating shades trimmed in blue silk cord, discovered at a local vintage shop.
I love the challenge of searching for and finding one of a kind (or in this case, a pair of) treasures for my design clients. And I partuclarly love one of my ongoing design jobs for a simply delightful family, with three lovely and lively daughters, each with their own very distinct personality and style preference. The eldest daughter is zippy and lighthearted with a definite flair for the modern; the second daughter is gently refined and ethereal (I think of watercolor hues for her); and the third daughter is possessed of a warm and sunny character—a radiant sunflower. The pair of Czechoslovakian lamps will add a charming touch to the middle daughter’s bedroom. Whether you are searching for special plants for the garden (the most highly scented specimens, for example) or rare and/or out-of-the-ordinary objects of art and decoration for the home, thoughtfully selected accents create the most welcoming sort of home.
Important Safety Note: Although these lamp bases are in near-perfect vintage condition, the cords are not. Judging from the overall poor condition of the cords, I would guess they were last wired in the late 1950’s or 1960’s. We will re-wire the lamps with soft gold-colored cord, which will better blend with the décor, as opposed to the dark brown or stark white wire. Always, and always very thoroughly, check the wiring when purchasing vintage lighting—for obvious reasons, I cannot stress this enough.
December 31, 2011 § Leave a Comment
A Note about Hippeastrum
Living in New England the year round, with our tiresomely long winter stretching miles before us, followed by a typically late and fugitive spring, we can become easily wrapped in those winter-blues. Fortunately for garden-makers, our thoughts give way to winter scapes of bare limbs and berries, Gold Finches and Cardinals, and plant catalogues to peruse. If you love to paint and write about flowers as do I, winter is a splendid time of year for both, as there is hardly any time devoted to the garden during colder months. I believe if we cared for a garden very much larger than ours, I would accomplish little of either writing or painting, for maintaining it would require just that much more time and energy.
Coaxing winter blooms is yet another way to circumvent those late winter doldrums. Most of us are familiar with the ease in which amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs will bloom indoors. Placed in a pot with enough soil to come to the halfway point of the bulb, and set on a warm radiator, in several week’s time one will be cheered by the sight of a spring-green, pointed-tipped flower stalk poking through the inner layers of the plump brown bulbs. The emerging scapes provide a welcome promise with their warm-hued blossoms, a striking contrast against the cool light of winter.
Perhaps the popularity of the amaryllis is due both to their ease in cultivation and also for their ability to dazzle with colors of sizzling orange, clear reds and apple blossom pink. My aunt has a friend whose family has successfully cultivated the same bulb for decades. For continued success with an amaryllis, place the pot in the garden as soon as the weather is steadily warm. Allow the plant to grow through the summer, watering and fertilizing regularly. In the late summer or early fall and before the first frost, separate the bulb from the soil and store the bulb, on its side, in a cool dry spot—an unheated basement for example. The bulb should feel firm and fat again, not at all mushy. After a six-week rest, the amaryllis bulb is ready to re-pot and begin its blooming cycle again. Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Coaxing Winter Blooms
The taxonomy of the genus Hippeastrum is complicated. Hippeastrum is a genus of about 90 species and over 600 hybrids and cultivars, native to topical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina north to Mexico and the Caribbean. For some time there was confusion amongst botanists over the generic names Hippeastrum and Amaryllis, which led to the application of the common name “amaryllis” when referring to Hippeastrum. The genera Amaryllis refers to bulbs from South Africa.
December 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Amaryllis ‘Orange Sovereign’ will be in full bloom by Christmas Day!
For tips on coaxing winter blooms, including forcing bulbs and flowering tree and shrub branches, see Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! David R. Godine, Publisher.
November 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
August 9, 2011 § 1 Comment
Recently a design colleague wrote inquiring as to the best time to mow her client’s fields as she was concerned about disrupting the breeding cycle of the Monarch butterfly. I am often asked this question and it is well worth considering, not only for the sake of the Monarchs, but for the survival of the myriad species of butterflies, bees, and other pollinating and beneficial insects that find food and shelter in untilled fields.
August 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
At this time every year readers write in to inquire about the mysterious and startling “furry shrimp” flying in their gardens. Perhaps you have a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth I write back? They are often seen nectaring at our North American native wildflowers bee balm (Monarda didyma) and white flowering summer phlox ‘David’ (Phlox paniculata), as well as the butterfly bushes and Verbena bonariensis. Scroll down through several posts to see article..
August 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“At this point, it is the summer phlox and, above all, the towering lilies that are providing the scent in our garden in Milton. And very heady it is, too- especially on still, hot days.” - My friend David Godine writes of his beautiful garden in Milton, Massachusetts.
I am wonderfully fortunate that Mr. Godine is both my publisher and editor for my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!. Not only does David have a deep love for all things books, he is passionate for gardens and gardening.
August 3, 2011 § 6 Comments
Startled! is an apt description of the reaction most gardeners experience when first they encounter a clearwing moth. Hovering while nectaring, with wings whirring rapidly and audibly, is it a miniature hummingbird, enormous furry bee, or mutant new world creature?
The family Sphingidae are easily identified in both their adult and caterpillar forms. The medium-to-large-sized sphinx, or hawk, moths have characteristic robust, chunky bodies tapering to a point, and slender wings, which are adapted for rapid and sustained flight. Often mistaken for hummingbirds, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemeris thysbe), with green tufted body and ruby colored scales, suggesting the male hummingbird, and the Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), with the gold and black striped color pattern similar to that of a fat bumble bee, mimic both the bees and birds they fly with during the day. The ability of certain Sphingids to hover in mid air while nectaring is unusual in nectar feeders and has evolved in only three species: Sphingids, bats, and hummingbirds. Sphinx moths also do an exceptionally unusual movement called “swing-hovering,” swinging from side to side while hovering, it is thought, in an effort to escape predators lying in wait amongst the flora.
Sphinx moths are grouped together because their caterpillars hold their head and thorax erect in a sphinx-like fashion. Most larvae have a horn protruding from their last segment. For this reason, they are often called hornworms. The adult sphinx moth is a powerful flier and usually has a long proboscis suitable for tubular-shaped flowers with a deep calyx, such as trumpet vine. The slender wings must beat rapidly to support their heavy bodies. The names of many sphinx or hawk moth species correlate to their caterpillar host plant, to name but a few examples: Catalpa Sphinx, Huckleberry Sphinx, Paw Paw Sphinx, Cherry Sphinx, and Elm Sphinx.
The order Lepidoptera is comprised of butterflies, moths and skippers. The name is derived from the Greek lepidos for scales and ptera for wings. Their scaled wings distinguish them as a group from all other insects. Shortly after the Hummingbird and Snowberry Clearwings are born, they immediately begin to shed their wing scales, hence the common name clearwing moth. While nectaring, moths receive a dusting of pollen as they brush against the pollen-bearing anthers. Their fuzzy, fur-like scale-covered bodies are an excellent transporter of pollen. Because moths are on the wing primarily at night, moth-pollinated flowers are often white and pale, pastel-hued and tend to be sweetly scented. White flowers are more easily distinguished in the evening light, whereas colorful flowers disappear. Adult clearwing moths are diurnal (day flying) and nectar at a variety of flowers. In our garden, they are most often spotted at our native Phlox ‘David,’ bee balm (Monarda didyma), purple-top Verbena bonariensis, and butterfly bushes with blue and white flowers. The larvae of Hummingbird Clearwings feed primarily on viburnum, honeysuckle, and snowberry (all Caprifoliaceae), and less commonly on hawthorn, cherry, and plum (Rosaceae). Snowberry larvae feed on honeysuckle and snowberry.
For the most part, Sphinx moths are on the wing at night, although the beautiful White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) is often seen at dusk. The forward wings are dark olive brown streaked with white. The hind wings are black with a vivid band of rose-pink. Found throughout North America, both larvae and adults are consummate generalists. The caterpillars feed on the foliage of apple trees, four-o’clocks, evening primrose, elm, grape, and tomato. The adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers including larkspur, gaura, columbine, petunia, moonflower, lilac, bouncing bet, clover, Jimson weed, and thistle. White-lined Sphinxes are drawn to lights and those that remain in the garden the next morning are quite subdued, and may come to your finger.
Orchids often have a symbiotic relation to very specific sphinx moths. The starry white, six-petalled Comet Orchid (the French common name, “Etoile de Madagascar” means “Star of Madagascar”) produces nectar at the bottom of an extremely long corolla, nearly a foot in length. Star of Madagascar (Angraecum sesquipedale) was predicted by Charles Darwin to have a highly specialized moth pollinator with a proboscis at least that long. “Angraecum sesquipedale has nectaries eleven and a half inches long, with only the lower half filled with very sweet nectar…it is, however, surprising, that any insect should be able to reach the nectar: our English sphinxes have probosces as long as their bodies; but in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and twelve inches!” (Darwin). The giant hawk moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta (“the predicted one”) was named appropriately upon its discovery, after Darwin’s death.
Co-evolution, the specialized biological embrace of two species, bears both benefits and risks. Each partner benefits in that no energy is wasted on finding ways to reproduce. The risk lies in becoming too dependent on a single species. If one half of the co-evolved partnership perishes, the other will surely become extinct as well.
All photos shot at the Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate with Fujifilm x100.
July 30, 2011 § 2 Comments
Quickly posting as I am under several deadlines and determined to get all fully underway. I believe I mentioned that this past week, Lisa Smith and her Cape Ann TV After-the Beach Teen Video Club stopped by for a tour of my garden. Here’s a short clip, with a wonderful surprise visit by the friendly Question Mark butterfly, who very conveniently, stole the show.
The teens and Lisa did a great job and all very much enjoyed the beautiful creatures that flew in and out of our story. It is not easy to focus on tiny subjects using a heavy camera attached to a tripod. The full video of the garden tour and interview will air in the near future and we will keep you posted.
July 28, 2011 § 5 Comments
July Butterfly Update
Have you noticed the sheer numbers of our winged friends? Returning this evening from a swim at 6:45, I bumped into three Monarchs nectaring and a Red-spotted Purple (all in pristine, newly emerged condition). Early evening is an unusually late time of day for butterflies on the wing, especially when skies are slightly overcast. This, after a day of observing and shooting numerous numbers of butterflies, caterpillars and hummingbirds–and never leaving our garden. I work for a bit, but then the garden calls and I’m out the door with both video and still cameras. If this fabulously warm weather keeps up, I think we are in for another banner year with the butterflies, and skippers too.
Currently, we have 28 Monarchs, in various stages of development, residing in our kitchen, and seven Black Swallowtail caterpillars and chrysalids.
Black Swallowtail Caterpillar–note the fine “girdle” spun by the pupating caterpillar. Attached to the stem by both the girdle and a silky mat in which his last proleg is hooked, the caterpillar is securely latched. The proleg becomes the cremaster during pupation.
I am often asked why I collect butterfly eggs and don’t simply leave them in the garden. Butterfly larvae have a roughly one in ten chance of survival in the wild. In our kitchen, the odds increase exponentially, with a ten in ten rate of survival. For instance, I have learned, that after observing a butterfly deposit her eggs on a host plant, to gather them up quickly. If I become distracted and wait even only an hour, they often disappear, usually having been eaten or parasitized.
More detailed information on each species will be forthcoming. Much footage to edit…
Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice ~ My favorite photo of the season (click on the photo to see full size). Yesterday afternoon, Lisa Smith, one of the producers over at Cape Ann TV, with her After the Beach Video Club for Teens, were filming in the garden. While Patrice was interviewing me, this Question Mark alighted briefly on her shoulder several times. I was prepared the second time, with camera ready and adjusted to the appropriate settings. The Question Mark’s cooperation throughout the day’s shoot–nectaring, sunning itself, and taking long sips of sap through the chinks of bark in the weathered old pear tree–was very much appreciated by all; he was the true star of the day!
Oh Joyous July!
July 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
This morning I had the pleasure of presenting my Monarch butterfly program to the Cape Ann Garden Club. The meeting was held at the charming and beautifully maintained Annisquam Village Hall, located in the very heart of Annisquam. Thank you Cape Ann Garden Club members for your enthusiasm and for your interest–it was my joy!
These lovely arrangements are created by the members and then gathered up at the end of the meeting to be distributed to nearby nursing homes.
July 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Now through October 9th at the Cape Ann Museum
Margaret Fitzhugh Browne (1884-1972) was an important member of both the Boston and the Cape Ann communities. Locally, she maintained a studio in Annisquam and was an active member of the North Shore Arts Association and the Gloucester Society of Artists.
The walls of the second floor of the Annisquam Village Hall seemed naked without Margaret Browne’s strikingly beautiful portraits. In addition to paintings borrowed from the Hall, on exhibit at the Cape Ann Museum are Browne’s paintings in the museum’s collections, and paintings borrowed from private collections. A special Margaret Browne walking tour of Annisquam is scheduled for this coming Saturday, July 16th.
Saturday, July 16, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Margaret Fitzhugh Browne’s Annisquam Walking Tour
Take an historical stroll through the artist’s Annisquam neighborhood. Offered in conjunction with the special exhibition, Margaret Fitzhugh Browne: Sixty Years of Portrait Painting. $20 members, $30 nonmembers. Cape Ann Museum Exhibits and Programs
July 3, 2011 § Leave a Comment
June 26, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Magnolia virginiana ~ Sweet Bay Magnolia
Located in the heart of Ravenswood Park in Gloucester there is a stand of Magnolia virginiana growing in the Great Magnolia Swamp. It is the only population of Magnolia virginiana known to grow this far north. I took one look at the native sweet bay magnolia and breathed in the fresh lemon-honeysuckle scent of the blossoms, fell in love, and immediately set out to learn all I could about this graceful and captivating tree. Recently having returned from a trip to visit my family in northern Florida, I had tucked the bud of a Magnolia grandiflora into my suitcase. I was dreaming of someday having a garden large enough to accommodate a Magnolia grandiflora and was overjoyed to discover the similarities between M. virginiana and M. grandiflora. For those not familiar with the Southern magnolia, it is a grand, imposing specimen in the landscape, growing up to fifty feet in the cooler zones five and six, and one hundred feet plus in the southern states. M. grandiflora is the only native magnolia that is reliably evergreen in its northern range, flowering initially in the late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. The creamy white flowers, enormous and bowl-shaped (ten to twelve inches across), emit a delicious, heady sweet lemon fragrance.
In contrast, the flowers of the sweetbay magnolia are smaller, ivory white, water-lily cup shaped, and sweetly scented of citrus and honeysuckle. The leaves are similar in shape to the Magnolia grandiflora, ovate and glossy viridissimus green on the topside, though they are more delicate, and lack the leathery toughness of the Southern magnolia. The lustrous green above and the glaucous silvery green on the underside of the foliage creates a lovely ornamental bi-color effect as the leaves are caught in the seasonal breezes.
Magnolia virginiana is an ideal tree for a small garden in its northern range growing to roughly twenty feet compared to the more commanding height of a mature Southern magnolia. Sweet bay grows from Massachusetts to Florida in coastal freshwater wetland areas as an understory tree. The tree can be single- or multi-stemmed. Sweet bay is a stunning addition to the woodland garden with an open form, allowing a variety of part-shade loving flora to grow beneath the airy canopy. The leaves are a larval food for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Almost immediately after planting we began to notice the swallowtails gliding from the sunny borders of the front dooryard, where an abundance of nectar-rich flowers are planted specifically to attract butterflies, around to the shady border in the rear yard where our sweet bay is located.
Our garden is continually evolving and part of our garden has given way to a limited version of a woodland garden, for the shady canopy created by the ever-growing ceiling of foliage of our neighbor’s trees has increasingly defined our landscape. We sited our Magnolia virginiana in our diminutive shaded woodland border where we can observe the tree from the kitchen window while standing at the kitchen sink. Gazing upon the tree bending and swaying gracefully in the wind, displaying its shifting bi-color leaves, provides a pleasant view when tending daily chores and the dreamy fragrance emitted from freshly opened blossoms make the chores all that less tiresome.
Excerpt from “Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!” Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine Publisher), written and illustrated by Kim Smith.
June 26, 2011 § 4 Comments
Magnolia virginiana in Massachusetts written by Peter Del Tredici.
The sweet bay magnolia swamp in Gloucester, Massachusetts has been a botanical shrine since its discovery in 1806. Early New England naturalists and botanists of all types, from Henry David Thoreau to Asa Gray, made pilgrimages to the site of this northern- most colony of Magnolza virginiana. The local residents of Gloucester were so impressed with a “southern”plant growing this far north that they changed the name oft he Kettle Cove section of the town to Magnolia in the mid-1800s. It is probably no coincidence that this name change occurred at the same time the area was starting up its tourist trade.
In addition to its isolation, the Gloucester Magnolia population was remarkable for having escaped notice until 1806 in an area that was settled in 1623. This fact has led at least one author to speculate that the colony was not wild but escaped from a cultivated plant (Anonymous, 1889). However, the overwhelming consensus of earlier botanists is that the population is, in fact, native. Whatever its origin, the swamp remains today the unique and mysterious place it has been for almost 200 years.
Very little has been written about the magnolia swamp in recent years. The latest, and best, article about it was wntten by Dr George Kennedy, and appeared in 1916 in Rhodora, the Journal of the New England Botanical Club. Dr. Kennedy summarized the history of the stand, and cleared up the confusion about who discovered it by publishing a letter he found, written by the Honorable Theophilus Parsons to the Reverend Manassah Cutler in 1806. The letter captures the emotion of the moment of discovery:
Reverend and Dear Sir:
In riding through the woods in Gloucester, that are between Kettle Cove and Fresh Water Cove I discovered a flower to me quite new and unexpected in our forests. This was last Tuesday week [July 22, 1806]. A shower approaching prevented my leaving the carriage for examination, but on my return, on Friday last, I collected several of the flowers, in different stages, with the branches and leaves, and on inspection it is unquestionably the Magnolia glauca Mr. Epes Sargent has traversed these woods for flowers and not having discovered it, supposes it could not have been there many years. It was unknown to the people of Gloucester and Manchester until I showed it to them. I think you have traversed the same woods herborizing. Did you dis-cover it? If not, how long has it been there? It grows in a swamp on the western or left side of the road as you go from Manchester to Gloucester, and before you come to a large hill over which the road formerly passed. It is so near the road as to be visible even to the careless eye of the traveler. Supposing the knowledge of this flower, growing so far north, might gratify you, I have made this hasty communication.
Your humble servant, Theoph. Parsons
To read Mr. Del Tredici’s fascinating article in full click here Magnolia virginiana in Massachusetts, including an excerpt from when Henry David Thoreau visited the swamp and wrote about it in his Journal.
Peter Del Tredici is a Senior Research Assistant at the Arnold Arboretum and Lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Peter writes the following for the Arnold Arboretum: “My research interests are wide ranging and mainly involve the interaction between woody plants and their environment. Over the course of thirty plus years at the Arnold Arboretum, I have worked with a number of plants, most notably Ginkgo biloba, conifers in the genera Tsuga and Sequoia, various magnolias, and several Stewartia species (family Theaceae). In all of my work, I attempt to integrate various aspects of the botany and ecology of a given species with the horticultural issues surrounding its propagation and cultivation. This fusion of science and practice has also formed the basis of my teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (since 1992), especially as it relates to understanding the impacts of climate change and urbanization on plants in both native and designed landscapes. Most recently, the focus of my research has expanded to the subject of spontaneous urban vegetation which resulted in the publication of “Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide” (Cornell University Press, 2010).”
June 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Driving into Willowdale this morning I encountered our neighborhood Indian Blue Peacock. Daily sightings have been reported and the entryway sign is his choice perch. The Fujifilm x100 performed remarkably, despite the lack of sunlight and steady drizzle.
From wiki: Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, a resident breeder in South Asia. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India and the provincial bird of the Punjab. The term peafowl can refer to the two species of bird in the genus Pavo of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. Peafowl are best known for the male’s extravagant tail, which it displays as part of courtship. The male is called a peacock, and the female a peahen. The female peafowl is brown or toned grey and brown.
June 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
June 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Thank you Good Morning Gloucester blog for posting the flyer for the Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour. I am so wrapped up in work and would have missed it otherwise. I could only get away for the last several hours of the tour and did not get to see all. From what I did see, English cottage garden and English country manner is the dominant style, with a heavy reliance on plants originating from Europe and Asia. I am always on the look out for design inspiration, particularly a creative and natural use of native plants, however, all the gardens were lovely and beautifully maintained. Often put forth is the argument that older American homes need be planted with popular European and Asian plants in order to maintain historical accuracy. Many of the estates along Boston’s North Shore were built during the period of the late 1800′s through the first several decades of the 20th century, when in fact, a great passion for native plants and wildflowers, and their use in the landscape, developed amongst home owners and landscape professionals alike.
June 15, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Native Buzz: Creative Container Gardening for Pollinators Opens at Garden in the Woods
Fifteen exhibits are placed along the Curtis Path at Garden in the Woods. Some whimsical, and all educational, each of the fifteen exhibits has a distinct concept and use of containers that hold the plants, which attract pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Native Buzz: Creative Container Gardening for Pollinators runs at Garden in the Woods, 180 Hemenway Road, Framingham, MA, through August 31, 2011, Tuesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fees for adults (18-64) $10, seniors (65+) $7, youths (3-17) $5. Guided walking tours are offered Tuesday through Friday and holiday Mondays at 10 a.m. Weekend guided walking tours are given at 2 p.m. For more information see Native Buzz.
Hibiscus moscheutos, with many common names–Crimson-eyed rose mallow, swamp mallow, and rose mallow–makes a long-blooming and gorgeous container plant when kept well-watered and well-fed. With luscious blossoms in pure white, rose red, and shades in-between, nearly all have an eye of deepest red. Popular during the Arts and Crafts period, Hibiscus mosheutos has had a wonderful resurgence with today’s gardeners. It occurs naturally in the east in swamps and marshes, from Massachusetts to Michigan and south to Florida and Texas,
The mission of New England Wild Flower Society is to conserve and promote the region’s native plants to ensure healthy, biologically diverse landscapes. Founded in 1900, the Society is the nation’s oldest plant conservation organization and a recognized leader in native plant conservation, horticulture, and education. The Society’s headquarters, Garden in the Woods, is a renowned native plant botanic garden in Framingham, Massachusetts, that attracts visitors from all over the world. From this base, 35 staff and more than 1,000 volunteers work throughout New England to monitor and protect rare and endangered plants, collect and preserve seeds to ensure biological diversity, detect and control invasive species, conduct research, and offer a range of educational programs.
June 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
June 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Lilacs are found growing (where winters are cold enough to afford proper growth and ample blossoms) from the smallest rural village to the urban courtyard. They grow the very best in zones 3, 4, and 5, in the colder regions of zones 6 and 7, and in the warmer regions of zone 2. They will tolerate temperatures of -35 to -40f, though they may suffer some damage from windchill. If temperatures dip to such extreme cold in your region, site the lilac out of the path of chilling winter winds. Lilacs will tolerate frozen ground but not frozen pockets where water does not drain properly. Requiring excellent drainage, they grow best along rocky, limestone hillsides, suggesting just how important good drainage is. When planted in a mesic site, lilacs flower adequately, although, by late summer the foliage may wilt and turn moldy.
Lilacs perform best in sandy, gravelly loam mixed with organic matter such as compost and aged manure. Keep the surrounding soil free from weeds with an annual mulch of compost. In early spring sprinkle a cup of wood ashes around the base of the lilac and work it gently into the top layer of soil. Every three years or so apply a cup of ground limestone to the soil, again gently working it into the soil so as not to injure the roots.
Lilacs require full sun to nearly full sun to set flower buds. Where optimal sunlight isn’t always available, one may have some success with pushing the envelope. We are growing lilacs in several locations in half sun, and although they would be fuller in form with far more flowers, all are growing well.
The overall shape of lilacs is greatly improved with an annual pruning. Immediately after flowering is the ideal time to attend to this not unpleasant task. The job becomes less manageable as the shrub grows tall and leggy in a few short years.
After the lilac has become established and is a desirable size and shape, cut to the ground approximately one third of the oldest branches and thinnest suck- ers. This allows the bush to renew itself and for the energy of the bush to go into the remaining growth. Leaving the strongest trunks that form the armature of the shrub, prune diseased or pest-infested shoots or branches, and remove all declining stems, thin suckers, and small, twiggy branches. Some lilacs produce suckers rarely, if at all, and others sucker aggressively. Remove all spent flowers immediately after blooming, snipping very close to the tail end of the panicle so as not to remove the new growth that will provide you with next year’s flowers.
If you are growing lilacs as a background shrub or as a small tree, allow only two to three main stems as trunks, removing lower branches and cutting all other shoots to the ground. ’Beauty of Moscow’, ‘Madame Florent Stepman’ and the common lilac, both var. purpurea and alba, are all well suited for growing into a small multi-stemmed tree. Conversely if you do not want your lilac to become a tree, prune to a height of eight to nine feet, which keeps the blossoms at eye level.
With its versatile form and lovely heart-shaped leaves the lilac is an exceptional companion to a wide range of flowering trees and shrubs. The extended period of florescence a well-planned lilac hedge provides coincides with the long flowering period of our native pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) and Catawba rhododendrons. Just as the Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii) is at its flowering peak, with masses of sublimely scented white blossoms, the earliest lilacs begin their fragrant parade. In our garden, the blossoms of Prunus, namely peach, pear and plum, overlap with the flowering of ‘Beauty of Moscow,’ ‘Maidens Blush,’ and ‘President Grevy.’ They are planted in close vicinity along the garden path. The newly emerging fragrant blossoms of Prunus interwoven with the pervasive perfume of lilacs give The Scent of All Spring!
Lilacs are one of the loveliest shrubs to grow as a tall hedge, and they integrate magnificently into the country hedge of mixed shrubs and trees. The ineffable beauty and fragrance of lilacs are enhanced by the many varieties of suitable companion plants. The short list of plants described here is particularly appealing during the lilac’s period of flowering, for their compatible scents, colors, and foliage or for creating a sequentially blooming combination of fragrances. ‘Korean Spice’ viburnum, nearing the end of its florescence while the lilacs are beginning theirs, blooms in pink infused white, snowball shaped flower heads, with an intensely sweet and spicy aroma. Variegated Solomon Seal, Viola ‘Etain,’ late-season jonquils and narcissus, and lily of-the-valley all bloom simultaneously with early lilacs. The most sublimely scented tree peony ‘Rockii,’ with white petals washed with pale rose, and magenta-purple splotches at its heart center, also flowers during lilac time. Later in the season, to coincide with later-flowering lilacs, come the Iris pallida , Iris germanica, and native Iris versicolor, English bluebells, early species daylilies with their honey-citrus scent, ‘Bridal Wreath’ spirea, blue and white columbine ‘Origami,’ and white bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’). Although not at all fragrant, I find the warm, rich yellow color of native honeysuckle Lonicera ’John Clayton’ particularly appealing with the white and cool blue-lavender-hued lilacs. Just as ‘Therese Bugnet,’ the earliest of roses to flower (with its Rugosa heritage) joins the scene, the lilacs are finished for the season. Lilacs, when pruned to a small tree shape, allow a variety of plants to grow happily at their feet. Herbaceous peonies, although their blooming period usually does not coincide with lilacs, make an ideal garden companion. In our yard, Paeonia lactiflora follow lilacs almost to the day in order of sequential blooming. The dense, full mounds of foliage of the herbaceous peonies visually fill the space left by the trunk of the lilacs, as do hosta. The foliage of hosta, planted on the shady side, makes a companionable partner. Hosta will appreciate the filtered sun and both plants benefit from an annual blanket of compost. Species daylilies, Montauk daisies, and chrysanthemums are ideal companions when planted on the sunnier side of lilacs.
Spring never lasts long enough in New England, with some years leaping from bitter cold to balmy, summer-like temperatures. Despite freezing rain and late spring snow, lilacs bloom and bloom resplendently. For the extended period of time in which the spires of sweet florets are in bloom, our garden is redolent with their heavenly fragrance. The blossoms of Syringa vulgaris, and especially the fragrant sorts, are a nectar source for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The diminutive “violet afloat,” better known by its common name Spring Azure, is captivatingly beautiful floating about the pure white flowers of ‘Marie Legraye.’ Throughout the seasons our lilac hedge is alive with a chattering collection of songbirds. The height and the crooks of the branches are enticing to the innumerable songbirds, though it is the cadmium orange oriole alighting on the blue-hued spires of ‘President Grevy’ that causes the heart to skip a beat.
End Notes: Occasionally one must dig a bit deeper to find the value of a plant in relationship to pollinators for the landscape designed for people and wild creatures. First and foremost a garden should be an inviting habitat for the people who dwell there. What better way to create an invitation than with the beauty and fragrance of the lilac? Although not native to North America, lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are celebrated in this country as they are part of our cultural heritage. From cuttings tucked into belongings, the earliest settlers connected their previous home to their home of new beginnings. The ease in which lilacs are cultivated is famous and testifies to their success and popularity. At a lecture I attended not too long ago, an example of a white oak, which supports nearly one hundred species of Lepidoptera, was compared to the lilac, which is known to support just twenty-five. From a gardener’s perspective that is like comparing apples to oranges. Very few have space enough to grow an 80-foot-tall white oak, whereas a ten-foot-tall and easily cultivated lilac can find a place in nearly any garden. Besides, twenty-five species of Lepidoptera is not bad. Additionally, lilacs are a rich source of nectar for swallowtails. Our native eastern redbud—although stunning, and providing nectar for bees and hummingbirds—is much more challenging to cultivate and hosts two species of Lepidoptera. Plant what you like, as long as it is not invasive in your particular region. As much as possible, utilize native plants in your garden design and combine with well-investigated and well-behaved ornamentals.
For an expanded version on the history of lilacs, Lilacs the Genus Syringa written by Fr. John L. Fiala is highly recommended. Filled with hundreds of color photographs and including chapters on the culture of lilacs, hybridizing techniques, and propagation, I have turned to this book repeatedly. Fortunately it has been reprinted and is once again available through Timber Press.
June 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
Dear Gardening Friends,
Come join me this Tuesday, June 7th at Willowdale Estate, from 4:00 to 6:00, for a house and garden tour of this beautiful, and beautifully restored, historic Arts and Crafts manse. Members of the Willowdale staff will be giving guided tours of the house and I will be available to talk about the garden, including how the Arts and Crafts movement influenced our horticultural decisions. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.
Thank you for all the thoughtful comments and praise for last week’s column “The most highly scented lilacs…” Next week I will send you information on lilac culture as this is the ideal time of year to trim and shape your lilacs for maximum blooms next year.
Reader Irma wrote the following: I picked my lilacs at their height. In water, in the vase they lasted 2 days and drooped! Last year the same. I couldn’t believe it. Do you know why?
Hi Irma, Lilacs have woody stems and do not easily absorb water in the vase. Depending on whatever tool is handy, I do one of two things,. With a hammer, crush the stems, at least six inches along the length, and immediately place in a vase filled with tepid or warm water. Over the years I have also discovered that peeling the stems with a vegetable peeler is just as effective, and less messy. Peel away the woody outer layer, all around the stem, again at least six inches up the stalk (peel down to green). Still, even with treating the stems, the arrangement will be fleeting and only look beautiful for several days. The scent of the lilacs permeating throughout your home is worth the extra effort!
Many wrote last week to say they enjoyed the excerpt from Amy Lowell’s gorgeous poem Lilacs. Here it is in entirety:
May 29, 2011 § 1 Comment
Surely at the top of the list of shrubs to grow for creating the framework of an intimate garden or garden room are lilacs, in particular Syringa vulgaris and their French hybrids. Syringa vulgaris are grown for their exquisite beauty in both form and color of blossoms, although it is their fragrance flung far and throughout gardens and neighborhoods that make them so unforgettable.
Not all species of Syringa and cultivars of Syringa vulgaris are scented. The early French hybrids and hybrids of Leonid Kolesnikov have retained their fragrance. Syringa oblata has a similar fragrance, though is not nearly as potent. Several of the Chinese species have a spicy cinnamon scent, while many of the Asian species and their hybrids have very little, if any, fragrance. To find your personal preference, I suggest a visit to a local arboretum, or take your nose to the nursery during the extended period of time (six to eight weeks, or so) in which the different cultivars of S. vulgaris are in bloom.
Nearly everywhere lilacs are grown (and here I am only referring to S. vulgaris), they are called by some variety of the word lilac. Perhaps the word lilac stems from the Persian word Lilak or Lilaf meaning bluish. The French say Lilas, the Spanish say Lila, and the Portuguese Lilaz. In old English lilacs were called Laylock, Lilack, and Lilock.
Lilacs are native to and found growing among the limestone rocks on the hillsides and mountainsides throughout southeastern Europe, in the Balkans, Moldavia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia. Cultivated by local mountain herdsmen, they were taken from the peasant villages of central Europe to the garden courts of Istanbul. In 1563, the Flemish scholar and traveler Ogier Ghiselin, Count de Busbecq, Ambassador of Ferdinand I of Austria to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, brought back to Vienna gifts from the sultan’s garden. Attracting much attention was the lilac. Seven years later, in 1570, Ogier Ghiselin, Count de Busbecq, and then Curator of the Imperial Court Library, accompanied the Archduchess Elizabeth from Vienna to Paris where she was betrothed to King Charles IX of France. Count de Busbecq journeyed to France with a shoot of Syringa vulgaris, where it soon began to fill the gardens of Paris.
Two color variants sprang up in European gardens beside the wild blue- flowered lilac, a nearly white flowered variant with lighter foliage and a taller- growing variant with deeper purple flowers. Hybridizers quickly set about to create different forms and color versions from these two variants.
Victor Lemoine of the famed nursery Victor Lemoine et Fils at Nancy in Lorraine Province continued the work of hybridizing lilacs. From 1878 to 1950, Victor and his wife, their son Emile, and their grandson, Henri, created 214 lilac cultivars. The cornerstone of the Lemoine’s lilac hybridizing program was a nat- ural sport that bore two corollas, one inside the other, making it the first dou- ble. This double was subsequently named ‘Azurea Plena.’ Because of the Lemoine family’s success in turning ordinary lilacs into fancy double-flowered lilacs in nearly every hue imaginable, they became known as the “French lilacs.” Spreading throughout Europe, the French lilacs were brought to the Russian court by French travelers. Well suited to the soil and climate of Russia, they soon spread far and wide. Several decades later, the Russian hybridist Leonid Kolesnikov continued the successful work of the Lemoines with his own exquisite variants.
The French and Dutch colonists transported lilacs to North America. These cherished cuttings, wrapped in burlap and wet straw tucked into suitcases for the long journey across the Atlantic, traveled well and were soon growing throughout the colonies. By 1753 the Quaker botanist John Bartram of Philadelphia was complaining that lilacs were already too numerous. One of two of the oldest col- lections of lilacs in North America are at the Governor Wentworth home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, planted by the governor in 1750. The second collection, perhaps one hundred years older, is at Mackinac Island in Michigan, where French Jesuit missionaries living in the area are thought to have planted them as early as 1650.
With their traveling fragrance, versatility in the landscape, and their ability to live tens, perhaps even hundreds of years, lilacs are garden heirlooms. When selecting lilacs to grow for creating the framework of the garden, take the time to choose wisely. Some lilacs grow readily into a tree shape (‘Beauty of Moscow’), while others are somewhat relatively lower growing cultivars; ‘Wedgwood Blue’ comes to mind, and still others, the common white lilac (Syringa vulgaris var. alba), sucker more freely. And bear in mind that different lilacs bloom over an extended period of time. If you wish to have a blue lilac blooming simultaneously with a white lilac, then it is worthwhile to determine whether a specific cultivar is an early, mid, or late season bloomer. The following is a selection of lilacs growing in our garden, arranged in their sequential progression of flowering, with considerable overlapping. They are all highly scented or we wouldn’t grow them. The last photo below shows the different colors in lilac blossoms of white, pink, blue, lavender, magenta.
S. x hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’ (1966) Skinner ~ Single, pale rose pink; shows different colors of pink under different soil conditions. In a warmer climate and lighter soils it is a paler shade of pink, in heavier soils ‘Maiden’s Blush’ has more lavender undertones.
‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’ translated to ‘Beauty of Moscow.’ Leonid Alexseevitch Kolesnikov (1974) ~ Double, lavender-rose tinted buds opening to white-tinted pink. Grown throughout Russia. Vigorous upright habit, useful for growing into a tree-shape. Very extended blooming period.
Syringa vulgaris var. purpurea. Common purple lilac ~ Lavender, the wild species seen growing throughout its native land. The common purple is the most widely distributed form of lilac. The lilac of old gardens.
‘Wedgwood Blue’ John Fiala (1981) ~ Hanging panicles of beautiful true blue florets. Lilac-pink hued buds. Somewhat lower growing.
‘Madame Florent Stepman’ (1908) ~ Satiny ivory white florets from rose- washed buds. Pure white when fully opened. Tall and upright growing. One of the most extensively cultivated for the florist trade.
‘President Grevy’ Lemoine (1886) ~ Pure blue, immense panicles of sweet starry florets.
‘Marie Legraye’ (1840) ~ Single, diminutive florets, radiant white, lighter green foliage.
‘Monge’ Lemoine (1913) ~ Vivid, intense plum wine fading to deepest rose.
‘Andenken an Ludwig Spaeth’ Nursery of Ludwig Spaeth (1883) ~ Single, rich purple-violet with a smaller pointed-head panicle.
Above excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine, Publisher), written and illustrated by Kim Smith.
More on Lilac Culture in the next post.
May 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Colour of lilac.
Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soilof New England,
Lilacs in me because I am NewEngland,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are of it,
Because my flowers are for it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice
Since certainly it is mine.
—from Lilacs by Amy Lowell (1874–1925)
May 26, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Congratulations North Shore Garden Club and Willowdale Estate for a fabulously successful show!
A wonderful time was had by all and Willowdale looked gorgeous. The expert hands of seasoned event organizers Helen Glaenzer (North Shore Garden Club president) and NSGC event co-chairs Susan Barry, Didi Blau, and Cathy Ebling were in evidence throughout with their beautiful design touches and thoughtfully presented exhibits.
Many thanks to the staff at Willowdale–Emily, Lenna, Chef Joe, Dale, Sarah, Greg, and James– to name only a few of the hardworking crew that makes Willowdale sing. The new conservatory is exquisite and will allow Willowdale to host larger events throughout the four seasons. Stunning light was cast from the conservatory skylight, illuminating the exhibits beautifully.
May 2, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In organizing my Monarch book proposal to send to a friend, who has a friend who publishes children’s books, I am sorting through my illustrations. This painting was completed at the end of summer last and illustrates a male Monarch (above) and female (below) ascending towards a maple tree during their mating flight. He carries her and together they stay joined, abdomen to abdomen, for several hours–truly a beautiful thing to observe.
I lay down on the ground under a neighboring maple tree and sketched while looking up into the canopy. This is what I imagine the leaf net canopy looks like to the Monarchs as they ascend into the trees.
PLANT MILKWEED AND YOU, TOO, WILL HAVE MONARCHS MATING IN YOUR GARDEN!!
Milkweed is the food plant of the Monarch caterpillars. I often observe females drinking nectar from the milkweed blossoms one moment and the very next, depositing an egg on the underside of a freshly unfurled leaf, near the top of the plant. We observe the greatest numbers of caterpillars on the foliage of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).
May 1, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Everything old is new again–it’s a girl-thing in our family–we just can’t get enough of those cat’s eye sunglasses! Looking through family snapshots inspired this posting. I wish I could locate an old photo my mom has of she, my two sisters, and me in our matching leopard print bathing suits, with coordinating cat’s eye sunglasses…