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A Fall Surprise

November 25th, 2011

I have this lovely oakleaf hydrangea planted by my back door. It’s an elegant plant, reserved, classic, understated, yet so beautiful it almost take you by surprise. It ages gracefully throughout the seasons, every bit as beautiful in fall as it was in early summer at the height of it’s bloom season. This is what the progression of blooms looks like throughout the year. The flowers start off as a creamy green, then on to white in summer and burnishing to pink in late summer.

It never fails to amaze me each fall when the leaves turn this beautiful burgundy. I love seeing it every time I come and go out the back door.

In mid-summer this plant is abuzz with activity while the honeybees load themselves down with this pale cream colored pollen; making this plant an all around winner. When a plant is beautiful in all seasons and produces loads of pollen for the pollinators it’s a big winner for me!

Do you have any plants to recommend that are all around winners, being beautiful, care free, and beneficial to the wildlife or insects?

Plant Spotlight: Goat’s Beard

June 13th, 2011

Four years ago I purchased a few tiny white Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus) plants for my garden. I planted them in the side garden waiting to get a spot ready for them in one of the borders. Last year when we put in the garden pond, I decided they would be quite lovely growing behind it. It’s in full bloom at the moment and stunningly beautiful, drawing my attention to it whenever I’m in the front yard.

Goat’s Beard or Bride’s Feathers as it’s also known, is a flowering perennial that will be 3-6 feet tall and 2-4 foot wide when mature. It is native in the Eastern portions of the United States as well as parts of Europe and Siberia. It prefers light shade and moist soil and will grow in zones 3-7.

It blooms beautifully in May/June with big white feathery blossoms that look a lot like astilbe. I love the way it looks at dusk, the big white blossoms glow along the dark woodland edge. It seems to attract a lot of small native pollinators while it’s blooming. The foliage is attractive even when it’s not in bloom. I like to leave the dried blossoms on it to add some interest.

Goat’s beard is also available in dwarf forms if your garden is small. It’s definitely a worthwhile plant to look into incorporating somewhere in your garden, especially if you live in the Eastern portions of the US where it would be right at home in a native border.

Any great plants that you’re loving in your garden at the moment?

Plant Spotlight: Siberian Squill

April 8th, 2010

I have these tiny little bulbs that bloom every spring in the garden. I always wonder if they’re going to emerge and then one day – there they are. They’re quite lovely and worth having around. They’re so delicate and lovely compared to most spring bulbs. They also produce food for the bees in an early time when they don’t have a lot of other options. My first scilla bloomed on March 21 this year.

The great thing about scillas or Siberian Squill is that they’re deer resistant (at least in my garden). I’m always searching for deer proof options for plants I love. Since crocuses are a deer delicacy here (although some places claim they’re deer proof), I’ll settle for lovely scillas instead.

Another think I like about these little bulbs is that they’re not very common. I’ve only seen them once in another garden. Having something a little lesser known in the garden is a great thing!

I won’t rewrite all the information about scillas here, if you want more info read this in depth post about them.

Do you have any lesser known spring bulbs that you like?

Perennial Potato and Egyptian Walking Onions

March 28th, 2010

Over the past couple years I’ve been reading about permaculture and have been looking for ways to incorporate more of these techniques into my gardening. One of the things that many permaculture advocates suggest is using as many perennial vegetables as possible to limit the need to disturb the soil by working it too much. Adding more perennial fruits and vegetables would also help with the gardening work load! Since I love trying to things, especially in the garden I decided I’d try my hand at growing perennial onions and Egyptian Walking onions. I searched on-line and found them at Southern Exposure.

According to Southern Exposure:
Heirloom potato onions enjoyed widespread popularity before the turn of the century. Nearly every gardener grew potato onions and they were available in yellow, white, and reddish-brown varieties, the yellow being most common. Potato onions are still a local favorite in some areas of Virginia. Each bulb cluster of potato onions may contain many bulbs, averaging 2 to 2-1/2″ in diameter. When a small bulb (3/4″) is planted, it will usually produce one or two larger bulbs. When a large bulb (3 to 4″) is planted, it will produce approximately 10 to 12 bulbs per cluster. These bulbs of various sizes may be used for eating, storing, or replanting. By replanting a mixture of sizes you will have plenty of sets for next year’s crop and plenty of onions for eating during the year. Potato onions can increase 3- to 8- fold by weight each year depending on growing conditions. Potato onions store better than most seed onions, and individual bulbs can be grown in flower pots to produce a steady supply of green onions during the winter.

The potato onions looked like shallots and the Egyptian onions were tiny little bulbs, not quite what I was expecting.

Egyptian Onions are described by Southern Exposure this way:
The onion to plant if you always want onions. Egyptian Walking Onions grow perennially in a bed. Hardy bulbs set bulblets on stalks. Air bound bulblets will sprout new smaller stalks, which fall over and replant themselves, hence the name “Walking”. Bulbs can be harvested over Fall and Winter. Green Onions can be harvested selectively as they grow. Plant them where you intend to have them for a long time, as they are quite hardy.

I planted both of these last fall and I was pretty excited when I saw the potato onions and the walking onions coming up this spring. I’m interested to see how they do here in the gardens and what the flavor is like. Not having to plant as many onions each year will be nice if these work out. I’ll be sure you keep you posted.

Do you have any perennial vegetables or fruits in the garden?

Native Witch Hazel

November 30th, 2009

The native witch hazel has been blooming for a while. It blooms much earlier and is less showy than it’s cultivated cousins. These photos were taken about a month ago.
Witch hazel is an understory tree, so it thrives in the woods or along the edges of the woods. It prefers the cool shady areas and with too much sun it will produce fewer blooms. These trees are located in the woods to side of our gardens. What a great plant it is since it blooms at this weird time. When the rest of the natural world is preparing for winter it bursts forth in radiant blooms, which will last into December.
Hamamelis virginiana was one of the first New World plants to be adopted for ornamental use by European horticulturists. As early as the mid-17th century, the plant was growing in private botanical collections in London. And it’s been a perennial favorite ever since. Witch-hazel has a rich history of use outside the garden setting. Traditionally, branches of H. virginiana were used as “divining rods” to locate underground sources of water. Also, extracts from the leaves, twigs, and bark were used to reduce inflammation, stop bleeding, and check secretions of the mucous membranes.
Since witch hazel usually blooms after most of the pollinators are gone, it doesn’t often produce seed. I think with the warm weather we’ve had this year, I may be able to find some seeds next year to plant along the edges of our woods.

What native shrubs or trees do you love?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.