Encounter a White Landscape . . . “Seen” by Pēteris Vasks

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a snow-covered winter scene showing a row of leafless trees growing at the boundary of an agricultural field that stretches all the way to the horizonIn his evocative 1969 meditation on winter titled simply “Confirmation” (Apliecinājums), Latvian writer and translator Māris Čaklais said,

How good it is that once again we believe in the snow,
which is like the dawn of dawn.

As you know, snow comes in only one color: white, and dawn brings only one thing: light (and as that light builds, day). So what is it that’s getting confirmed here? Read more

What Are the Hardiest Gardenia Varieties?

Since January is the month Alexander Garden was born, let’s take a timely look at the popular shrub that commemorates him.

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a photograph of a gardenia plant growing in the snow in January

The Frost of Death was on the Pane—
“Secure your Flower,” said he.
Like Sailors fighting with a Leak
We fought Mortality—

In the past few years, many people who have grown gardenias outdoors have shared Emily Dickinson’s lament for the unspecified vegetable victim from poem F 1130. You may wonder just what the hardiest gardenia varieties are. The answer is developing, so let’s consider what we know about what’s available. Read more

2018 Perennial Plant of the Year: Allium ‘Millenium’

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The 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year as it might appear in a yard. Allium 'Millenium' has very attractive leaves and flowers.
Allium ‘Millenium’ has very attractive leaves and flowers, as you can see.
Photo provided by Walters Gardens, Inc.

I hope this particular variety will be only the beginning for you if you’ve never tried the ornamental alliums before. There are many more, and in fact, I wish I could tell you just how many. Read more

What’s The One Thing (almost) Nobody’s Planting Right Now That Almost EVERYBODY Should Be?

There are many possible answers to this question, and we could gather an assortment, yet no one might mention it. But the best response is so obvious to a few people that it’s really hard to believe it can be an impossible secret to everyone else!

Don’t you hate those kind of secrets? Read more

. . . So the Pink Hyacinth was a True Prophet, and I Went to Bed a Happy Millionaire . . .

two white hyacinths blooming against the foundation of a houseFrom the Journals of Louisa May Alcott, 1868, perhaps while she was finishing or proofreading Little Women, which would be published September 30. Note the reference to the Civil War: “all these years.” Also, these are forced hyacinths she is describing, in wintertime actually, so her thoughts ahead are prompted by the new year. These posts were written on different days over several weeks.

After last winter’s hard experience, we cannot be too grateful. To-day my first hyacinth bloomed, white and sweet, — a good omen, — a little flag of truce, perhaps, from the enemies whom we have been fighting all these years. Perhaps we are to win after all, and conquer poverty, neglect, pain, and debt, and march on with flags flying into the new world with the new year.

My second hyacinth bloomed pale blue, like a timid hope, and I took the omen for a good one, Read more

Do You Appreciate the Wabi-Sabi Effect and Early Flowering Time of Ornamental Quince?

a white quince in a 3 gallon container at the nursery showing blooms before the leaves come outIn temperate climates, one of the earliest shrubs to bloom is the Ornamental Quince. The display will usually peak at the same time as forsythia, and you can make spectacular combinations by putting them side-by-side. Since the red form of quince seems most common, I thought I’d point out that they come in other colors too: orange, pink, and white.

white crocus blooming in a lawnA few of these shrubs with Iris reticulata at the base would make a fine show that in most parts of the country would appear in March. Or consider planting with crocus, creeping phlox, Siberian squill, Puschkinia, or Chionodoxa. Read more

Discover the Dahlias and Design of Helena Ely

a black-and-white photograph of Helena Ely from around 1900

In 1880, Helena Rutherfurd married Alfred Ely II, a partner in the New York law firm of Agar, Ely & Fulton. Although they lived in Manhattan, the couple also owned a 350-acre country estate in northwest New Jersey. At Meadowburn Farm, Helena cultivated six acres around the house, and from her experiences arose three books on gardening. The first, A Woman’s Hardy Garden (1903), was reprinted 16 times before going out of print during the Great Depression. Her approach differed from the formal and Italianate styles that had become the dominant concepts in design back then, and came closer to that of William Robinson, who had published his once-controversial ideas in the decades before. According to The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Ely’s book “helped popularize the design of perennial gardens” [versus displays based on annuals] and marked a shift in culture Read more