Although called Iceland Poppies, Papver nudicaule is a boreal beauty native to North America, Asia, and Europe, not Iceland. They don’t care much for our hot summers and are generally short-lived. I don’t mind and plant them anyway, the colors are just too exquisite to not grow!
Category Archives: Home and Garden
Blooming today all along the shoreline, pond bank, marsh, and meadow Iris versicolor goes by many charming common names including Sweet Blue Flag, Harlequin Blue Flag, and Northern Blue Flag. The specific epithet versicolor refers to the fact that it flowers in a range of blue to purple hues. No matter what shade of purple-blue, the falls are always yellow. Whatever one calls our native iris, it sure is beautiful, much prettier I think than hard-to-get-rid-of Siberian iris or the top heavy and overly showy bearded iris. And this American beauty is a hummingbird attractant!
Our alphabet garden at the Children’s Campus at Phillips Andover is coming along beautifully. In its second year, I’ll post photos later in the season as the garden begins to fill out and come into full bloom.
Thanks to Pam and her wonderful staff at Wolf Hill for locating our letter Q plant, the towering ‘Queen of the Prairie.’ She is a gorgeous beauty for the back of the border, growing 5 to 7 feet tall, with panicles of deep pink and purple streaked lacy foliage. Can’t wait to see this native bee and butterfly attracting beauty in bloom!
Time for a bathroom break. Love this video being shared by Facebook friends! “Just PEE” penned by Cindi Lauper and performed by the Broadway cast of the hit musical Kinky Boots.
Playing with triadic color–the planters at the Mary Prentiss Inn are a great example of a classic triad. Triadic color schemes use colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. When successful, they are really quite vibrant and seem to sing. In these arrangements, the orange color dominates while the shades of purples and greens are the accents.
Thanks to Elise Jillson from Cedar Rocks Gardens for a tremendously positive shopping experience. Every Cedar Rock plant is grown on the farm and every plant is lush, happy, and healthy. I had to ferry around several car loads of plants this afternoon and Elise was a fantastic help.
Cedar Rock Gardens will be open tomorrow, Monday, Memorial Day. For more information on their flowers and vegetables, CSA, and upcoming season of gorgeous cut flowers, check out Cedar Rocks Gardens website here and see a recent GMG post here: Fantastic Organic North Shore Veggie and Flower Farm Cedar Rock Gardens is Rockin!
Lilacs from our garden blooming in shades of pink, purple, blue, white and lavender
With our lilacs in full glorious bloom, and nearly knocking me out with their wonderfully delicious fragrance when walking down our garden path, I thought I’d post this excerpt from my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden. Not all lilacs are fragrant and some not at all. Based on my years of planting lilacs for client’s gardens, and my own garden, with any one of the lilac cultivars listed here, you will not be disappointed. For information on how to grow lilacs, the chapter devoted to lilacs in Oh Garden! goes into greater detail.
Colour of lilac
Heart-leaves of lilac all over
Roots of lilac under all the soil
of New England,
Lilacs in me because I am
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are in 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)
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.
Blue lilac – ‘President Grevy’
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.
Pink lilac – ‘Maiden’s Blush’
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.
Link to David R. Godine website for more information Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden
Poppies popping, tulips resplendent, and flower pots poised to bedazzle, The Mary Prentiss Inn, conveniently located near Harvard University, is an utterly charming bed and breakfast, outfitted with all modern amenities (and a secret garden around back). Homemade breakfast is served daily, along with freshly baked treats for afternoon tea. Jennifer, the proprietor, and Lisa, who runs the front desk, could not be more welcoming. For graduation, business, or simply a romantic get away in the heart of Cambridge, The Mary Prentiss Inn is tops!!
Tulips in the city were hard hit by a cycle of freezing and thawing, after they had started to emerge. Nonetheless the tulips at the Inn are still blooming great guns!
This beautiful Robin’s nest is located at the lovely home of the Del Vecchio family. Daughter Clara noticed that a sprig of lavender was used in nest building so they left out some colorful bits of yarn. The Robins built the nest atop a rolled up rug that was left standing beside their well-trafficked front door. Mama Robin doesn’t seem to mind a bit the constant comings and goings of the household. I’ve seen robins build nests in some crazy places, but this has to take the cake!
Thank you to Michele for allowing me to come and film what has to be the world’s most charming Robin’s nest!
Update on the Robin’s nest: Sadly, Michele reports that the nest was knocked over and the eggs have been scavenged. In our region, Robins typically have several broods and often use the same nest, so perhaps the nest can become reestablished.
Tulips in our garden
Kate Wikwerth writes –
It’s time for the much anticipated Seaside Garden Club Annual Plant Sale and Auction!
Note to gardeners: Are you having problems with winter moths? Trees in the Rose Family (Rosaceae), cherry trees, plum trees, peach trees, and apple trees, for example, are especially devastated by the larval stage of these voracious eaters. There is no perfect solution. The worst thing to do is to spray your trees with chemical pesticides and herbicides because that will kill the good insects (bees, butterflies, and other beneficials) and not fully destroy the bad.
After blooming, spray horticultural oil on the branches, foliage, and trunk. This won’t totally wipe out the winter moths (nothing does), but it will act as a deterrent. Apply the horticultural oil about once every month or two, through January, as the adult moths deposit their eggs in the chinks of bark during the winter months.
Cedar Rock Gardens is an 18.5 acre farm conveniently located at 299 Concord Street, in Gloucester, a few short miles off Route 128. Plants and produce grown only at Cedar Rock Gardens are sold here, with a wide offering of organic veggies, herbs, and gorgeous flowers.
The welcoming handmade sign sets the scene. A modern farm, with its focus on organic practices, but the setting is pure old-time farm charm. Rambling stone walls delineate the fields of flowers, trays of seedlings are tucked under gnarled ancient apple trees, and an equally as distinguished catalpa tree grows alongside the drive as you enter the garden.
Dormant flower field
Elise and Tucker have many combined years of experience in organic farming. Read more about the two here. Opening the farm to the public is a new step for Cedar Rock Gardens in their growing business. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be offering in plants, as well as cut flowers, throughout the season (think peonies, zinnias, and sunflowers, to name only a few!). Stop in and say hello to Elise and Tucker and pick up your seedlings today!
Plant Nursery Hours: 8am to 5pm Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and 9am to 3pm Sunday.
Thank you so much to Nubar Alexanian for the tip to visit Cedar Rock Gardens!
Put a little spin in your spring! Play our Adiroundack: What color will YOU get?
Click ‘spin’ tab twice That’s all! We were inspired by the cheery line up at Wolf Hill and we created it in Scratch (Scratch is developed by MIT Media Lab)
Christmas in Rockport this year has been Christmas-ier than I can ever remember it being in the 14 years I’ve been around (now you all know that I’m 14 years old, because of course I was born a Rockport native). You will get in the spirit in spite of yourself, even if the weather is so mild it’s more like June (which is always so freakin cold here) than December.
TOMORROW the Rockport Winter Farmers Market features fresh food from actual farmers who grow stuff and have been growing stuff specifically for this market and the Cape Ann Farmers Market (next Saturday 12/19 in Gloucester!). So don’t let the farmers down and come buy fresh, local food. The market will also feature baked goods, nisu bread, pickles, fruits, granola, nuts, and more more more. 9am to 1pm at the Rockport Community House at 58 Broadway.
A raffle to support the work of the nonprofit Rockport Exchange (organizers of the farmers’ market) will be part of the fun. A bag of Rockport Farmers Market swag will be raffled every hour on the hour (10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm) so buy a ticket for just $1 and have a swell time winning stuff, supporting the market, and most importantly, supporting local food producers.
Also: Spiran Lodge has the annual Jul Fest tomorrow! This is a fantastic Rockport tradition and a nod to the village’s heritage. Pickled herring can be yours, along with tons of other great food and crafts. 9 to 1pm at Spiran Lodge on Broadway. And Rockport’s annual Gallery Stroll is tomorrow, with Rockport artists welcoming visitors to town.
AND the entire Charlie Brown Christmas album will be featured at the Old Sloop Coffeehouse Saturday night! This is just too much…. come for the Rockport Winter Farmers Market and stay for the day, ending the evening listening to live music, sipping coffee at the Old Sloop Coffeehouse at the beautiful First Congregational Church on Main Street in Rockport.
Laura Lepionka writes,
She simply didn’t believe me. There was no way that there could be carrots growing in her school garden because all she could see was a bunch of green leaves. But this little kindergartener from Veterans School had the surprise of her life when she reached down, scraped at the soil surface and found some orange! In the next moment she was yanking a carrot out of the ground along with her classmates and holding it up in the air with the biggest smile.
Please join us this year by donating to our end-of-year campaign in conjunction with Giving Tuesday, which is TODAY!
Why Backyard Growers this season? School, community, and backyard gardens yield delicious veggies, increase access to nature, provide learning opportunities, and improve children’s health — But more than that, gardens grow community and a powerful source of self-reliance.
This Giving Tuesday, help Backyard Growers strengthen our work serving Gloucester’s families and children. When you give today the first $2,250 we receive will be matched by three of our generous donors. This match represents a year’s worth of garden supplies for our district-wide Salad Days and Fall Harvest Days programs in Gloucester’s elementary schools. Double your impact and help us meet our match! Our partner, The Giving Common, will cover credit card fees so that 100% of your donation goes to Backyard Growers.
Please click the link to make your donation: https://www.givingcommon.org/profile/1141198/backyard-growers/
Lara Lepionka, Executive Director
269 Main Street
Gloucester, MA 01930
Last week after presenting my Pollinator Garden program in Orleans and visiting the Nauset lighthouses, the next stopover was to my grandparent’s beach in Dennis, or I should say, the beach where my family summered as our grandparents are no longer living. It was close to sunset and I had the overwhelming wish to watch the sun go down from the same place where we perched atop the bluff and had watched the sunset thousands of times as children. It was more than a little dismaying upon arriving to see my Grandmother’s glorious seaside garden gone, replaced by grass, but even more so, to see that the great stairwell and wild rose-lined path to the beach, once enjoyed by all the neighbors, had been privatized. Despite all that and feeling very melancholy, I had a lovely walk along the shore, watched the spectacular sunset from the cliff’s edge, and came upon a gorgeous mixed flock of shore birds. They stayed awhile resting and feeding in the surf at the high tide line and none-too-shy, allowed for both filming and photographing in the fading rosy light.
You can read an excerpt about my Grandmother’s Cape Cod garden in my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities in the chapter titled “My Grandmother’s Garden.”
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