Plant Purchases at the New England Wildflower Society – April 2011

I’ve been feeling a bit blue this April, a time of year when we often go on some kind of family adventure, but it’s not in the cards for this year.  So my husband suggested a consolation prize: a plant-buying expedition at the New England Wildflower Society.  The Garden in the Woods only opened on April 14, and I wasn’t sure if we’d find many plants for sale, but we did!  To be sure, they were light on the shrubs which are still mostly bare twigs and therefore not very attractive to potential buyers.  On the other hand, there were many beautiful small plants and early wildflowers that are inspiring at this time of year.  I love going to NEWFS at different times of the year, and being able to see both a different selection and different phases of familiar plants.  You can tell how good my experience with their plants have been – I bought two “plants” that actually haven’t emerged.  We joked that they could have a great business just selling potting soil with plant labels (not really).

So here’s what I got:

Two more bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Massachusetts’)  plants, another one for the front sloping bed, where I hope to start taking out the Stella D’Oro lillies, and one to try on the deck.  This is obvious – why haven’t I planted bearberry on the deck so far?  It is perfectly suited to the deck conditions, and should be a fantastic addition year-round.  It does mean I have to move around some plants to make room for it (but that’s one of my favorite pastimes).

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) for the shady bed under the kiwi vine and dogwood tree in the side garden.  The NEWFS staff warned me this may be a bit of a thug, and this is an area that needs kind of a thuggy shade loving plant, even the heuchera have been slow here, and it is bounded on all sides by the stone wall, brick path or lumber steps.

Trailing Arbutus (epigaea repens).  This is the Massachusetts state flower, and I’ve never even heard of it!

Canadian windflower (Anemone canadensis L.).  This is another shade-loving plant with a reputation for being aggressive.  I’m planning to put it in the dogleg with the Mayapple, and under the dwarf plum on the deck (in a container).  I’m hoping it will help to fill in these areas.


Gardening in the Fall

Fall really feels like the beginning of the garden year, not the end.  This is when I am most inspired to rearrange and add new plants, and for most perennials, this is a great time to plant.  After the summer, I know what didn’t turn out quite the way I hoped, either because I didn’t plan it out correctly,Kiwi vine in September or the plant doesn’t seem to like its spot (or sometimes likes it too much).  So I’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing lots of rearranging.  The patch under the Dawn Redwood was one of my projects; I also decided to give up on the day lilies and irises in our dogleg garden. I thought that area got some sun, but that was before the  kiwi vine on the nearby fence really got established!  I decided to replant the bed entirely with more shade-tolerant plants that will fit into the narrow bed better, too.


I also wanted plants that are evergreen or at least semi-evergreen, to cover the cement foundation.  But they can’t grow too big!  The fire alarm for our building is on this wall, about 4 feet up, and has to be kept clear.  A trip to the New England Wildflower Society turned up these two lovely Dog H obble (Leucothoe fonanesiana) plants, that only grow to 2 – 4 ft tall (and wide), and a beautiful Coastal Azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum), in a kind of blue-gray shade that goes nicely against the rain urn here.

Most of the irises are now positioned in another part sun/part shade bed, in the gap between the Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) and Possumhaw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum var. nudum) bushes.   I put a few out in the shady sidewalk boxes (not an ideal spot for them, but the greens will help to fill in these boxes even if they don’t flourish), and gave some to a neighbor.  I moved the day lilies down to the very narrow strip between the retaining wall and driveway.  This spot was originally filled with junk dirt from the time of construction,and it seems like it couldn’t possibly support any plants, but it’s sported a great line of daffodils, liatris, and what seems to be a perennial chrysthanemum (planted by one of my neighbors) sequentially, and I hope the day lilies will fit in.  My grandmother had a beautiful bed of these tiger lilies along the sidewalk of her house, and I’ve wanted to replicate it ever since she died, as a kind of remembrance.

bare patch in street bed A bare patch in the front street bed still confounds me.  There’s a large root from the maple tree right under this patch that seems to steal all the water from any plant I’ve tried to establish there.  I’m now thinking I may need to wait for the barren strawberry to wend its way over, since it can take sustenance from several points along the way, and does well in dry-ish areas.  I may have to wait for the spring to work on this one!

Replanting Under the Dawn Redwood

We have a beautiful Dawn Redwood in the sloping bed next to the driveway to the parking lot on the west side of our townhouse.  Ever since we got here (2006), a bunch of plants with lovely little purple bells have appeared under the tree, apparently getting enough sun slanting in under the lower branches to keep blooming.

My neighbor, a much more experienced gardener than me, warned me that these plants would spread through their root system throughout my garden.  But they continued to provide a beautiful spot of color in a shady area, and I was reluctant to dig them out.

Another neighbor said she thought they were some kind of Canterbury Bell, but neither could remember their name, and in several internet searches, I couldn’t find an exact match.  In a search about how to divide another perennial, I suddenly saw a picture of exactly this plant: Adenophora Liliifolia, or Ladybells.  Finally, a name for the plant!  A little more research turned up the information that they are, indeed, very aggressive, spreading both by seed and roots.

This year’s blooms were much reduced, perhaps partly because of the long rainy spell in the beginning of the summer, but also, I think, because the Dawn Redwood has spread so much further out, making this space really shady.

So earlier this weekend, I decided to make the big switch, dug up all of the Ladybells (they will go to one of those challenging sidewalk tree boxes, where we will welcome their invasive tendencies), and moved in some of my favorite dry shade perennials: a Leather Wood Fern, a couple Heuchera, and a Foam Flower.  Then I added a beautiful new Barren Strawberry plant (thank you, New England Wildflower Society) up near the top of the slope, where it will, hopefully, start to colonize the area, moving downhill and gradually filling up the space where the Ladybells had been.  I have a few of these around my garden, and they seem to do better in the more shady spots. under Dawn Redwood-new plants

The Heuchera were already in the vicinity, but they were too far down the slope and all sunlight was blocked by the yew (I think) that had grown up in front of them.  They suffered from insect or slug damage this summer, and aren’t looking great, so I’m hoping they survive the transplanting okay.  I’ve put all of them close to the irrigation hose, and have been running it every day to help them get established.

It all looks very sparse now, and I’m sure I’ll be pulling up Ladybells for years to come, but I’m looking forward to seeing it again next spring.