Monday, January 7, 2013

Reflections on the Summer Garden Part 1

                             Beebalm (Monarda Didyma)
Monarda didyma 'Raspberry Wine'

In the throes of winter, I like to reflect on the summer with all of its glorious warmth and welcoming garden treasures.  So let's start with a reflection on Beebalm!

Beebalm is a must-have deer resistant garden plant.  I honestly can't say enough good things about it!  Adaptable to almost any soil (mine grow in clay soil) these beautiful herb plants shine when in bloom.  Hardy to zones 3 (protection suggested in 3)-9 these lovelies are the plant of choice for hummingbirds and hummingbird moths.  As a member of the mint family they like to spread, but they are not quite as aggressive as their mint cousins.  I like to divide them every 2-3 years to keep up their vigor and also spread them to new places around the yard. 

Full to part sun will keep them happy.  Beebalm typically blooms from July well into August.  I've seen mine start blooming at the end of a particularly warm June.

 Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline' is irresistible to hummingbirds when it blooms.  A good mildew resistant variety.

During wet or humid summers or if plants are crowded (preventing good air flow) some varieties are prone to get powdery mildew.  Powdery mildew looks like fuzzy white patches and can cover the leaves and stems of the plant.  Personally, I turn a blind eye to the mildew and let nature take its course.  It won't kill the plants nor will it prevent them from blooming.  I'm also not a perfectionist!  If you prefer to combat mildew, choose an organic-use approved fungicide such as a copper based spray like Champ® or a product called Mildew Cure®. 

 Monarda didyma 'Blue Stocking' is my favorite!  A lovely heirloom variety from the 19th century.

Green budworms, although not common, can also bother certain varieties.  These small light green worms burrow into the buds of the flowers, sometimes destroying them before they can open.  Using organic sprays is a must in order not to harm the birds and bees that visit these flowers.  I find the best thing that works is an insecticidal soap, such as Safer®, sprayed on the buds at dusk.  Spraying at this time reduces the chances of beneficial insects and birds from coming into contact with it (just to be safe!).  It will also stay wetter longer with the absence of the sun to dry it up, as most organic sprays are only effective as long as they're wet.  Hand picking of the worms and destroying overly infested buds is also a great way to rid them from the garden.  

Be sure to read and follow the directions on any spray, should you decide to take that route.  Safety first, even in the garden!!  

Sanitation is key to help win the war on bugs and fungus.  At the end of the season be sure to remove all infected parts of the plant from the garden.  This will help reduce the chance of recurrence.

                               Monarda didyma 'Stones Throw Pink'  A lovely rosy color!

Beebalm is a New York native and was used by the settlers as far back as the 18th century.  It traveled by way of seeds to Europe in the mid-1700's and has since naturalized there.  Many hybrids have been cultivated since then.

The smallest beebalm grows to 12 inches and the larger varieties can reach up to 4 feet!  The taller varieties make a wonderful border plant.  Colors range from flaming red to mellow pinks and violet purples to white.

It's scented foliage has lemony undertones and has a wide range of uses in cooking, tea, medicines, and potpourri.  It's colorful edible flowers liven up fresh summer salads!

The flowers are perched upon strong stems and are a wonderful and long lasting cut flower for your summer bouquets.  

            Monarda didyma 'Raspberry wine'  Close-up shot.  Also a mildew resistant variety.

A truly endearing plant, Beebalm will surely become a favorite in your summer garden.  Between its colorful spiked blooms and the whimsical winged visitors that it attracts, you will have hours of enjoyment!


Friday, July 27, 2012

A Trip to Logee's Greenhouses

    If you live anywhere in the New England region and have an interest in growing tropical plants, then you know all about Logee's Greenhouses.  Established in the late 1800's, this tropical wonderland is located in the unassuming town of Danielson, CT.

    Upon entering the plain building you will be swept away in the magic that surrounds this place.  As you walk to the back of the small retail area you will get your first glimpse into the greenhouses.  When you descend the stairs into the "Long House" you will be hit with sweet smells, the sound of a trickling fountain, and your eyes will not be able to rest as you try to take it all in.

Your first glance into the greenhouse will bring a smile to your face.

    The isles are narrow and the plants will reach out to 'grab' you, but that is all part of the charm of wandering through the 100+ year old greenhouses.  Begonias to the right and mixed tropicals to the left.....where to start?

Pachystachys lutea look like lollipops!
Passiflora Coccinea is just plain stunning!
Thunbergia grandiflora is a fast growing vine that loves to flower!
    As you wind your way through the various greenhouses you'll find many delights including an ancient lemon tree nicknamed the "American Wonder Lemon" (Citrus limon 'Ponderosa') that bears 5LB lemons.  You'll also see flowers in colors you didn't think were posible in the natural world like the flowers of the "Jade Vine" (Strongyloden macrobotrys).
 The amazing "Jade Vine" with its seemingly unreal color grows in the "Fern House".

    You are guaranteed to be surprised by the many large specimens that thrive under glass cover in zone 5 Connecticut and will be inspired to try your hand at growing them on your windowsills or in your greenhouse.
A bench of lusty Passion Flowers for sale is surrounded by many mature specimens.

Scutellaria constaricana is a flaming red ever-bloomer sure to steal your heart!

    I always save the "Big House" for last.  It is indeed the biggest greenhouse open to the public and is markedly cooler than the others.  Huge trees and shrubs tower into the highest part of the glass.  It is truly like entering another world.
Clivia miniata loves the cool environment of the "Big House"
    When you finally are able to peel yourself out of the greenhouses (you will undoubtedly not want to leave) your arms will be heavy with all of your new 'babies'.  Truly a memorable experience awaits you in Northeast Connecticut!
Medinilla magnifica produces spectacular umbels of pink flowers.
    For more information on Logee's Greenhouses, visit their website: 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gardening with a Camera

Adventures with a Macro Lens

    At first I was going to write about the differences between using a 50mm lens with macro filters and a macro lens.  I had visions of switching the lenses and taking the same shot for comparison and then I actually used my macro lens for the first time.  I can't bring myself to take it off of the camera now!  Once I attached the Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM to my 5D EOS it blew my pants off!  If anyone would like to see some shots taken with a 50mm lens with macro filters, please check out my last blog post here: A zone 4 Spring .  Although I was quite happy using the macro filters with the 50mm lens, nothing could have prepared me for the HUGE difference I immediately experienced with the 100mm macro.

    I love gardening.  I love photography.  I love it when the two worlds collide!  Enough blabbing!  Here are my first macro photos!  

  It's been raining here, so I ran out in between the drops to discover how lovely rain could look through the lens!  Lilium tigrinum splendens

 I was pleasantly surprised by how close I could get.  Hosta

Hello ant!  Peony 'Festiva Maxima'

I ♥ this flower!  Narcissis Poeticus

Found this growing wild.  Aquilegia "Columbine"

This simple Iris is the earliest blooming one we have.

Here's another shot of it.  I unfortunately do not know what variety it is.  If any Iris lovers can identify this one, please leave a comment!

The silver foliage of Artemisia absinthium.  This plant is indeed the original source of absinthe.
The early flowers of Snowball viburnum 

Even rust looks good under the maco lens!

More fun with rust! 
 TTV is a breeze with this lens!

This is Jerky The Turkey.  He was one of the pardoned turkeys when we used to raise meat birds.  He's 7 years old and I don't want to hear anyone call him ugly!

Jerky feathers.

Lastly, the queen of the farm.....or at least she thinks she's the queen!

    So there you have it folks!  I hope I did the lens justice on its maiden voyage while showcasing different textures.  I'm sure I've only scratched the surface.  I love this lens and hopefully do not sound like an advertisement for Canon!  It's just really a great lens!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Zone 4 Spring

What's Blooming in the North Country

    With winter behind us we look forward to glorious sunshine and warm weather.  We go out to our gardens and inspect the ground, waiting patiently for that first bulb or plant to spring up and take away the doldrums. The somewhat mild winter killed one of my very favorite perennials, due to lack of snow cover, but I'm grateful that I didn't lose more. 

    Spring was early for us this year.  Our apple trees bloomed a full three weeks early and are already past peak bloom.  With all but one clump of bulbs left blooming, I decided to photograph the remaining spring delights, before they too were gone.  Spring is so fleeting and yet in the short space of time that it occupies, it awakens all of our senses perhaps more than any other time of year.  One could say that it's because we are left deprived from a grey and cold winter that we appreciate spring so much.  After many dark and cold days, spring certainly does wonders for the poor soul that climbs out of their winter bunker to discover an explosion of flora and fauna.  I think the bulbs, flowering trees and shrubs, the scent of the apple trees perfuming the air, and that first touch of a warm breeze is the real reason no other season can come close to topping it. 

    Heirloom or "old fashioned" plants are my favorite plants.  They may not be as flashy as the new hybrids out there, but they are hardy and have stood the test of time.  The following photos were taken using macro filters on my 50mm lens.  Here are some old favorites in bloom now:

 Dicentra Spectabilis 'Alba'  "Old fashioned bleeding heart"
Unfortunately, the geese ate all of the flowers off of my pink one so I currently can't show it off!

 Viola 'Bowle's Black'
A Victorian favorite

Syringa vulgaris  "Old Fashioned Lilac"
I found this growing by an stone old foundation and took a slip of it.  A few years later I had a fine blooming specimen!

The 'dreaded' dandelion!  
I love them even if they are a weed!  They're also very nutritious to eat!

 Nepata mussini  "Catmint"
Love its scented foliage!

 Narcissus poeticus
Given to me by my grandmother, who loved to share her heirloom flowers! 

Convallaria majalis var. rosea  "Pink lily of the valley"
Smells just as good as its white counterpart below.

Convallaria majalis  "Lily of the valley"
Smells like heaven!

 Pulmonaria officinalis  "Lungwort"
It's been in bloom since early March and although the blooms are fading, there is still that gorgeous foliage to enjoy!

 Myosotis sylvatica 'Bobo Blue'  "Forget me not"
And who could forget these blue beauties!

 Viola- Not sure of variety.  This one has been with me since I was a child and has followed me across three states!  It's now naturalizing and blooms in abundance.

 Lamium  "Dead Nettle"
It has nice foliage too!

 Last, but certainly not least---Apple Blossoms!!!
Oh, apple blossoms how I've fallen under your spell!

    They may be simple flowers, but I can assure you they are pure pleasure to the nose and the eyes!  Up next to bloom in the garden are the Peonies and Iris!  Stay tuned! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012


The Botanical Gardens of Montreal

    When you think of Montreal, you may envision fine cuisine, great people, interesting architecture, and diverse culture.  But did you know about their spectacular botanical gardens?  The Jardin Botanique De Montreal is a plant lover's dream come true.  There are ten exhibition greenhouses to wander through, each with its own unique group of plants and thirty different outside gardens that all have different themes. 

 Some of Montreal's interesting architecture, just outside of the botanical gardens.

    Upon arrival at the main entrance, I was greeted by large baskets of Begonia 'Tom Ment'.  Once through the doors, I was immediately immersed in a tropical wonderland.  Begonias, Orchids, Bromeliads, bonsai, Gesnariads, Cacti, and much more promise to awaken your senses.

Baskets of B. 'Tom Ment'

    Huge tropical foliage plants dominate the foyer.  A little pond with turtles basking in the sun greets you.  A ceramic tiled floor leads the way to the various greenhouses.  Bromeliads and orchids one way, Cacti and bonsai another.  The question to ask yourself is: "Where do I start?"

  The tropical rainforest conservatory
Arid regions conservatory

    As a true "Begoniac" I was instantly drawn to the Begonia house where one hundred different cultivars and two hundred different species of Begonias are continuously rotated through the displays.  This greenhouse is full of rare gems like the orange berried B. salaziensis from Maurice Island and the towering giant B. valida.  Large cascading baskets of B. manii and B. jussiaeicarpa are also sure to impress.  The many shapes, textures, and colors of the Begonias at the botanical gardens create an enchanting visual experience.

     The Begonia house is also home to many plants of the Gesnariad family, which share the same requirements as Begonias.  Their beautiful and bright blooms were a joy to see!

A grouping of Begonias

 Colorful B. brevirimosa and lacy B. foliosa 

Aeschynanthus, a member of the Gesnariad family

Kohleria, a member of the Gesnariad family

    When entering the arid regions conservatory one can instantly feel the change in the air from humid to dry.  Otherworldly Cacti dot the 'landscape' and look as if they could get up and walk away!

Cacti from the 'Arid Regions' house

    In the "Garden of Weedlessness" you will find a collection of interesting bonsai trees.  An Asian inspired design throughout the house is simple and peaceful.  The meandering reflecting pool is the perfect place to pause and gather your thoughts.
"The Garden of Weedlessness"


    My next stop through the greenhouses was the "Tropical Rainforests Conservatory".  Various Tillandsia, bright Bromeliads, and other epiphytes cling to trees.  Ferns, assorted Alocasia, and other foliage plants grow lushly at floor level.  There are many plants to observe and appreciate in this house!

Bromeliads growing on a tree limb
 Tillandsia hangs from a tree

A Bromeliad basking in the gloriously humid greenhouse!

    Running out of time, I decided to take a stroll to the outside gardens.  I visited in the late fall, but there was still plenty of interesting things to see.  In fact, the falling leaves revealed the garden 'structure'.  Pergolas, stone benches, perfectly maintained walkways, and even a wishing well make for a spectacular walk on a fine afternoon.
 The outdoor gardens in the fall
 A peaceful place to rest
    I unfortunately did not get to see everything that I had wanted to see in the time I was there.  Time flies when you enter this wonderland.  I would have loved to have seen the orchids and spent more time in the outdoor gardens, but there was not enough daylight!  This only means that I'll have to plan another visit!
    My experience at the Montreal Botanical Gardens was nothing short of exceptional.  A fabulous place to visit, no matter what time of year, I highly recommend you make it a destination of yours soon.