• Category Archives Gardening
  • What doesn’t kill us makes us hurt

    ferns in the shaded garden
    ferns in the shaded garden

    After spending two days shoveling cow manure into some of the gardens, I wanted to share a few pictures. We stopped after two days of slavish shoveling and weeding, not because we ran out of gardens. The work didn’t end because we were too exhausted to move, though we were hurtin’. The real reason the haulin’ ended was because we realized the truckload of cow poo wouldn’t be nearly enough for the task at hand. Thank goodness we have plenty of compost to substitute for manure in the remaining beds. Here on out, we ration the stuff.

    That grayish hairy plant emerging from the soil after winter domancy is a fern. Cinamon Stick, I think. We have lots of ferns here. Very Victorian.

  • Arnold Arboretum

    Ever have a day when you say to yourself, right at the beginning, I’m about to have a splendid time?

    Today was just such a day.

    The shadows have changed. Woolly bear caterpillars, a precursor of fall, are wiggling through the grass. And conscious that winter lurks right around the corner here in New England, I found the bright sun and pleasant 80 degree temps all the more precious as we set out for the hour drive to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain for the annual plant sale.

    We arrived at the huge wrought iron entrance gate about thirty minutes early. A good thing too, because crowds of bargain-seeking gardeners already roamed the grounds. Lucky to get a spot at all, we didn’t complain about the parking space, located about a half-mile distance from the sales area. No hardship taking an early morning stroll that took us past beautiful ponds lined with ornamental grasses, and specimen trees and bushes, all handily labeled.

    Halfway to my destination, I stalled to admire a spectacular and fragrant Clerodendrum trichotomun (Harlequin Glorybower). While sniffing the pinky-white blossoms, I managed to accidentally on purpose sneak a few of the startling blue drupes into DH’s pocket. He looked at me cross-eyed, but he’ll thank my larceny later when we plant the seeds in the ground.

    Inside the sales area gate, we collected our member’s coupon for two free plants , the description booklet with corresponding plant numbers, and then joined the L-O-N-G line awaiting the 10:00 admittance. Good vibes electrified the air, and little wonder, what with choice and unusual seedlings ranging in price from a low $6 to $10.

    Shortly thereafter, the guard motioned us ahead and we stormed the tables.

    Picture the annual designer wedding gown sale at Filene’s basement. Now amp up that sort of anticipatory pandemonium by several degrees. Because, let’s face the facts, sweet brides-to-be have nothing on cagey gardeners out to get their greedy hands on all they can carry. I was in manure heaven.

    Having practiced my campaign ahead of time, I went into the fray, elbows out, warding off attacks from both sides, a no-holds barred, every plant enthusiast for him/herself, merciless tactic.

    According to the terms of our discussed strategy, when our mostly filled plastic carrier trays became too cumbersome to carry when weaving in and out of the crowd, DH left me to guard our selections while he went off alone on reconnaissance to scout down additional plants.

    As soon as I took my hand off one of the carriers to scratch my poison ivy outbreak, people lunged for the unprotected plants. After battling off one feisty octogenarian, I thereafter ignored my itchy blisters and kept my attention front and center. Plant sale gardeners are the most aggressive of the species.

    Despite it all, we left with 16 choice seedlings.

    Now, these are small plants. I’ll never live long enough to see some of them mature.

    It doesn’t matter.

    Like the beginning of a splendid day, it’s the promise that counts not the fulfillment.

    See below for the common names of the plants I purchased. If anybody would like a description email me privately.

    (1) Chinese Fringetree

    (2) Oyama Magnolia-

    (3) Chinese Redbud

    (4) Smoketree

    (5) Carol Mackie Daphne

    (6) Enkianthus Campanulatus ‘Showy Lantern’

    (7) ‘Claudie’ Hydrangea (2)

    (8) White Mulberry

    (9) Cheerful Giant Azalea

    (10)Late Lilac ‘Charles Hepburn’

    (11)Striped Sedge ‘Evergold’

    (12)Mounding Grass ‘Albo-striata’

    (13)Harlequin Glorybower

    (14)Hydrangea ‘Quick Fire’

    (15) Mountain Laurel ‘Kaleidoscope’


  • Burning

    PERSONAL–What a glorious weekend here in New England! I spent most of Saturday outside, soaking up the sun, luxuriating in the balmy temps . . . working my ass off in the gardens in anticipation of spring.

    The kind of gardening we do requires a tremendous amount of stamina and writing is a sedentary occupation, so I try to stay in shape during the long, inert winter months through walking and pedaling the stationary bike and shoveling snow, but regardless, the first day outside is always brutal on dormant muscles. Can you hear me moan? I’m thinking clogs today, because no way can I get close enough to my toes to tie sneakers, my usual footwear.

    Yesterday, we only began the spring clean-up. We concentrated on the large projects; fine-tuning will need to wait. The willow trees on the property invariably lose branches. One huge limb fell in the stream, and the plan was to drag it out through the clutches of the cat o’nine tails. DH snuck out while I was hunting down my work boots and got the branch out by himself. His wiry strength never ceases to amaze me.

    After raking spent foliage, and cutting up rotted wood and other assorted garden debris, we started the fires. We had three going at one point, and narrowly avoided a 9-1-1 call when we decided to strike a match to one of the dried ornamental grasses. The Miscanthus strictus went up like a torch! While DH ran to turn on the outside water, I raced for the hose. We eventually smothered the fire, but the flames did leap over to the nearby clematis. Hopefully, the vine will survive and ashes are a good soil amendment–or so I tell myself.

    WRITING After submitting a very revised TAINTED LOVE for editorial consideration, I returned to LOST ANGEL. A hundred or so more pages, and I’ll call that re-edit a wrap. Two plot ideas have been nagging at me–one an historical, the other a futuristic–and I need to get my backlist done so I can start in on the new stories.

  • Foot Dragging

    Outside my office window is a garden ( Okay, okay, outside every window is a garden). This particular one contains a stone-gray birdbath/fountain depicting a little girl pouring water from a crockery jug; dainty-leafed boxwoods encircle the base. Because boxwoods are evergreen, the garden design pleases the eye through all four seasons. Even harsh New England winters. Even when, like today, the little girl wears a cloak of snow. Even when ice, rather than water, spills from her crockery jug. Even when winterkill dulls the foliage on the surrounding miniature bushes.fountain-775512

    A stone-gray sculpture. Green vegetation. A frozen cloak of snow. Pretty.

    I gaze out the window a lot when I write, and the little girl with her crockery jug cheers me up on these gloomy Fall days. Yeah, the flowers are gone, but she’s still there. I like the permanence of that.

    Here’s the thing: The little girl will remain forever young, but the fountain itself is getting old and porous. If I don’t start storing the statuary indoors during the winter, or at least wrap it in a godawful ugly black plastic tarp, frost heaves will eventually crack the fountain’s sculpted basin, where the birds drink and bathe, and it will be bye-bye evocative motif and hullo dumpster.

    The tarp is out of the question. I don’t do plastic anything in the gardens and shrouding the little girl in black seems maudlin to me somehow. Or, maybe it’s me that’s maudlin–dunno. Anyway, I promised myself last winter the statue was going indoors this winter.

    Today’s December 11. I’ve got 10 more days.


    Stay warm.