Clethra alnifolia is more commonly known by its many descriptive names of Summersweet, Sweet Pepperbush, and Honeysweet. In an old book on fragrance, written by Louise Beebe Wilder, she writes that in Gloucester of old it was described as ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ During the 19th and early 20th century, as told by Wilder, the sailors entering the harbor on homebound ships would reportedly delight in its fragrance wafting out to see.
Much of Niles Pond road is to this day lined with great thickets of ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ Wild Clethra growing on Cape Ann blooms during the month of August.
The following is an excerpt from a book that I wrote back in 2004-2007, which was published by David R. Godine in 2009. The book is about designing landscape habitats for wild creatures and for people, titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden, and all that I wrote then, still holds true to day.
“Summersweet bears small white florets held on racemes, and depending on the cultivar may be shaded with varying hues of pink to rose-red. The tapering spires of fragrant blossoms appear in mid to late summer. Clethra has a sweet and spicy though somewhat pungent aroma, and when the summer air is sultry and humid, the fragrance permeates the garden, Summersweet is a nectar food attractive to bees and a wide variety of butterflies, notably the Silver-spotted Skipper.” See more at Oh GardenMyriad species of bees and butterflies, along with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are attracted to Clethra for its sweet nectar, while American Robins, Goldfinches and warblers dine on Summersweet’s ripened berries. Clethra fruits ripening
Startled! is an apt description of the reaction most gardeners experience when first they encounter a clearwing moth. Hovering while nectaring, with wings whirring rapidly and audibly, is it a miniature hummingbird, enormous furry bee, flying lobster, or mutant new world creature?Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at Verbena bonariensis
The family Sphingidae are easily identified in both their adult and caterpillar forms. The medium-to-large-sized sphinx, or hawk, moths have characteristic robust, chunky bodies tapering to a point, and slender wings, which are adapted for rapid and sustained flight. Often mistaken for hummingbirds, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe), with green tufted body and ruby colored scales, suggesting the male hummingbird, and the Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), with the gold and black striped color pattern similar to that of a fat bumble bee, mimic both the bees and birds they fly with during the day. The ability of certain Sphingids to hover in mid air while nectaring is unusual in nectar feeders and has evolved in only three species: Sphingids, bats, and hummingbirds. Sphinx moths also do an exceptionally unusual movement called “swing-hovering,” swinging from side to side while hovering, it is thought, in an effort to escape predators lying in wait amongst the flora.
Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), nectaring at Buddleia
Sphinx moths are grouped together because their caterpillars hold their head and thorax erect in a sphinx-like fashion. Most larvae have a horn protruding from their last segment. For this reason, they are often called hornworms. The adult sphinx moth is a powerful flier and usually has a long proboscis suitable for tubular-shaped flowers with a deep calyx, such as trumpet vine. The slender wings must beat rapidly to support their heavy bodies. The names of many sphinx or hawk moth species correlate to their caterpillar host plant, to name but a few examples: Catalpa Sphinx, Huckleberry Sphinx, Paw Paw Sphinx, Cherry Sphinx, and Elm Sphinx.
The order Lepidoptera is comprised of butterflies, moths and skippers. The name is derived from the Greek lepidos for scales and ptera for wings. Their scaled wings distinguish them as a group from all other insects. Shortly after the Hummingbird and Snowberry Clearwings are born, they immediately begin to shed their wing scales, hence the common name clearwing moth. While nectaring, moths receive a dusting of pollen as they brush against the pollen-bearing anthers. Their fuzzy, fur-like scale-covered bodies are an excellent transporter of pollen. Because moths are on the wing primarily at night, moth-pollinated flowers are often white and pale, pastel-hued and tend to be sweetly scented. White flowers are more easily distinguished in the evening light, whereas colorful flowers disappear. Adult clearwing moths are diurnal (day flying) and nectar at a variety of flowers. In our garden, they are most often spotted at our native Phlox ‘David,’ bee balm (Monarda didyma), purple-top Verbena bonariensis, and butterfly bushes with blue and white flowers. The larvae of Hummingbird Clearwings feed primarily on viburnum, honeysuckle, and snowberry (all Caprifoliaceae), and less commonly on hawthorn, cherry, and plum (Rosaceae). Snowberry larvae feed on honeysuckle and snowberry.
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth nectaring at native Phlox paniculata ‘David’
(Click photo to see full size image)
For the most part, Sphinx moths are on the wing at night, although the beautiful White-lined Sphinx (Hyleslineata) is often seen at dusk. The forward wings are dark olive brown streaked with white. The hind wings are black with a vivid band of rose-pink. Found throughout North America, both larvae and adults are consummate generalists. The caterpillars feed on the foliage of apple trees, four-o’clocks, evening primrose, elm, grape, and tomato. The adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers including larkspur, gaura, columbine, petunia, moonflower, lilac, bouncing bet, clover, Jimson weed, and thistle. White-lined Sphinxes are drawn to lights and those that remain in the garden the next morning are quite subdued, and may come to your finger.
Orchids often have a symbiotic relation to very specific sphinx moths. The starry white, six-petalled Comet Orchid (the French common name, “Etoile de Madagascar” means “Star of Madagascar”) produces nectar at the bottom of an extremely long corolla, nearly a foot in length. Star of Madagascar (Angraecum sesquipedale) was predicted by Charles Darwin to have a highly specialized moth pollinator with a proboscis at least that long. “Angraecum sesquipedale has nectaries eleven and a half inches long, with only the lower half filled with very sweet nectar…it is, however, surprising, that any insect should be able to reach the nectar: our English sphinxes have probosces as long as their bodies; but in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and twelve inches!” (Darwin). The giant hawk moth Xanthopanmorganii praedicta (“the predicted one”) was named appropriately upon its discovery, after Darwin’s death.
Etoile de Madagascar and Hawk Moth Xanthopanmorganii praedicta
Image courtesy wiki commons media
Co-evolution, the specialized biological embrace of two species, bears both benefits and risks. Each partner benefits in that no energy is wasted on finding ways to reproduce. The risk lies in becoming too dependent on a single species. If one half of the co-evolved partnership perishes, the other will surely become extinct as well.
This article was first published on August 3, 2011 and was subsequently republished by the New England Wildflower Society.
All are welcome at The Mary Prentiss Inn, people and pollinators!
Pollen-dusted Honey Bee
We’ve planted the front dooryard garden with an array of eye-catching, fragrant, and nectar rich flora for both guests and neighbors to enjoy, and to sustain the growing number of bees, butterflies, and songbirds frequenting the garden.
Fabulously fragrant Oriental Lilies are planted adjacent to the front door to welcome visitors as they enter the Inn.
The Mary Prentiss Inn, from the pollinators point of view ~
The Mary Prentiss is a stunning twenty-room Greek-Revival style inn located on a quiet street minutes away from Harvard Square. Elegant, comfortable, and charming, with period architectural detail and decor, the Inn is outfitted with all modern amenities. Visit The Mary Prentiss Inn website for more information.
Enjoy a delicious made-to-order breakfast or afternoon tea at the Inn’s secret garden.
The Mary Prentiss Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the proud recipient of the Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award for 1995.
The Mary Prentiss Inn is located at 6 Prentiss Street, Cambridge. Call 617-661-2929 or visit maryprentissinn.com
Wild and wonderful wisteria can quickly become wildly wicked wisteria. Reader Alicia writes, “when is the best time of year to prune wisteria?”
Taming the wisteria (before photo). The first photo shows what the ancient wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) looked like when first I took over the gardens at Willowdale Estate. I removed much of the plant and bent one long trunk over and down, attaching it to a thick bamboo stake, to create the wisteria “arch.” The next photo shows what the wisteria arch looked like by mid-summer that same year.
Alicia asks: “Much to my surprise the wisteria is blooming and has never been this late. I really gave up on it and am wondering why? When is the best time to prune it?”
Wisteria throughout our region bloomed later than usual I think becasue spring got off to such a slow start this year.
Wisteria grows beautifully and is easiest to control when pruned biannually, or twice a year; a summer pruning and a winter pruning.
Summer Pruning: Cut the long shoots after the flowers fade to about six inches.
Winter Pruning: In late winter, before the buds begin to swell, prune all the shoots that have since grown after the summer pruning. The shape of the leafless wisteria is more clearly visible and you can easily see the unruly, long shoots at this time of year. Cut the branches to about 3 to 5 buds and over time, these shortened flowering branches will resemble a wisteria “hand.”
Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), the American native small tree, is so rarely planted today. Trees and plants trend at nurseries and, unfortunately, Fringetree has become one of those beauties that we need reminding of its great merits. The above specimen can be seen today in full glorious bloom on Rocky Neck, across the street from Judith and Gordon Goetmann’s Gallery. The botanical name translates lossely as snow flower, aptly describing the fluffy panicles covering the Fringetree when in bloom.
The sweetly scented airy blossoms are attractive to bees and butterflies and the ripened fruits are a wonderful food source for songbirds and small mammals. In autumn, the foliage turns a brilliant clear golden yellow. Fringetree grows from Canada to the Gulf Coast, and famously tolerates air pollution, making it ideal for urban landscapes. Grow Fringetree in sun to part sun, in moist fertile soil. At maturity, the tree tops out at twelve to twenty feet high and equally as wide.
The one negative is that Fringetree is slow to leaf out in spring, with a tendency to look dry and woody. Don’t plant it with your spring ephemerals and you won’t notice!
Fringetrees are dioecious, which means they have separate male and female plants, similar to hollies. Some flowers are “perfect,” meaning they have male and female parts. The male’s flowers are showier than the females, and the female and perfect flowers give way to blackish-blue fruit in late summer. Chionanthus virginicus is a member of the Oleaceae, or Olive Family, and the fruits of Fringetree are similar looking to that of Olea eruopea, the olive tree cultivated throughout the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia for its edible fruit.
I ran into Anne Malvaux while photographing the Rocky Neck Fringetree and she reports that she doesn’t recall seeing any fruit, which means it is most likely a male of the species, or that the fruit is so delicious it is quickly devoured by wildlife (often the case with native trees and shrubs). Or if it is a female and doesn’t bear fruit, it may because there is no males growing nearby. We’ll have a another look in late summer.
I have shared many photos and stories about the garden and events that take place at Willowdale Estate. Not only because I love working with everyone there, but also because several people who live in Gloucester work at Willowdale (Michele and Audi) and because everyone in the Willowdale offices reads GMG on a daily basis. The following glowing review was recently published in The Knot and I thought perhaps prospective brides looking for a venue would like to read about one bride’s beautiful experience at Willowdale.
Last fall I began a new project, The Mary Prentiss Inn, located on Prentiss Street off of Harvard Square. The old garden had grown up and out and the plants had become too over-sized for the little borders out front of the Inn.
Mary Prentiss Inn ~ Before
Jennifer Fandetti, who runs her family’s Inn, had wanted more color throughout the growing season, as well as flowers to bring indoors to decorate the rooms.
Jennifer and bulb-planting helper
Our awesome fall crew planting the bulbs
We are all so weary of winter’s drab hues that when spring at long last arrives the tulips and jonquils are a wonderfully welcome sight. I make a special mix of color and variety for each client and later this season we’ll add perennials and annuals. The boxwoods give the borders a neat appearance and the hollies and magnolia provide structure and beauty throughout the year. Coming soon is a little cutting garden along the side of the building. For now, everyone, including guests and neighbors, are enjoying the new look at the Inn!
Harvard and MIT are just around the corner from the Mary Prentiss, and with all the graduations and events, if you need a wonderful place to stay, or recommend to a friend, The Mary Prentiss Inn is an absolutely perfect and delightful inn in the heart of Cambridge. The staff is gracious and helpful, the building has been beautifully renovated and restored (and is meticulously maintained) and all the rooms are charming and beautifully appointed, with decor by Charlotte’s Forsythe. Amenities include high speed internet service (wired and WiFi), cooked to order breakfasts, and 100 percent cotton bed linens. Every afternoon tea is served with super delicious homemade cookies and other sweet treats. Around back is a stunning secret garden and sunny courtyard used for breakfast, afternoon tea, and relaxing.
I watched as these two women were were walking down Mass Ave. They looked down Prentiss Street, and continued to walk by, but on second thought turned around and came back to photograph the flowers!
Thank you to everyone participating in the Cape Ann Milkweed Project!
Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Common Milkweed ~ Good Harbor Beach
Milkweed may not be for everyone’s garden; even if you did not order plants, you are welcome to come on down to the dock Saturday morning, the 18th of May, and learn more about the Monarch-milkweed connection. The plants are being shipped on Monday the 13th and I will keep you updated on their progress.
Lecture Tuesday night, April 9, at 7:30 at the Manchester Community Center: Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden.
Cabbage White Butterflies Mating in the Native Flowering Dogwood Foliage
The lecture tonight is based on the book of the same name, which I wrote and illustrated. In it I reveal how to create the framework, a living tapestry of flora, fauna, and fragrance that establishes the soul of the garden. Using a selection of plant material that eliminates the need for pesticides and herbicides, and guided by the plants forms, hues, and horticultural demands, we discuss how to create a succession of blooms from April through November. This presentation is as much about how to visualize your garden, as it is about particular trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and annuals. Illuminated with photographs, and citing poetry and quotations from Eastern and Western cultural influences, this presentation engages us with an artist’s eye while drawing from practical experience.
The Cecropia Moth, or Robin Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is the largest moth found in North America, with a wingspan of up to six inches. He is perched on the foliage of our beautiful native Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay Magnolia), one of several of the caterpillar’s food plants. You can tell that he is a male because he has large, feathery antennae, or plumos, the better for detecting scent hormones released by the female. This photo was taken in our garden in early June.
The Manchester Community Center is located at 40 Harbor Point, Manchester.
Lilac ‘Maiden’s Blush’ (Syringa vulgaris) and the Friendly Red Admiral
Tomorrow night I am presenting one of my garden design lectures in West Newbury. For a complete list of programs that I offer, see the Programs page on my blog. For a list of upcoming lectures and programs, see the Events page on my blog.
Note: Program Rescheduled for June 6th.
Oyama Magnolia Bud (Magnolia sieboldii)
The Oyama Magnolia is often planted adjacent to tea gardens in Japan because the blossom of the small tree nods downward, allowing the seated person to look up into the face of the flower. The first time I saw (or should say smelled) Magnolia sieboldii was in a wholesale nursery close to the Rhode Island border, where a single large specimen was tucked in with other more common species of magnolia. The divine fragrance emanating from the tree had drawn me towards it. The tree was unmarked, but since I so strongly value fragrance in plants, I had read about it and knew exactly what it was. Spring had not yet sprung in Gloucester and the honeysuckle sweet and citrus fragrance was intoxicating to my winter weary brain. I tied my tag around to claim it and have adored this tree since the day our Oyama Magnolia arrived to our garden.
Last night I gave a talk on Fragrant Gardening at a sportmen’s club in Plymouth. In looking through images to update my presentation, I found two photos that had previously been overlooked. The first photo is of a Painted Lady nectaring at the sweetly scented butterfly bush ‘Nanho Purple,’ which blooms continuously throughout the summer. You can see she is a Painted Lady because of the four concentric circles, or “eyespots,” on the underside of her hindwing.
The second photo is of a Monarch nectaring at New England Aster ‘Alma Potchke,’ taken at a friend’s garden on Eastern Point. Our native New England asters have a wonderful spicy sweet earthy fragrance and are one the most potently fragrant asters found. New England asters bloom typically from late August through September.
The third photo I’ve posted before and it is of an American Lady nectaring at Korean Daisies. You can tell she is an American Lady by her two comparatively larger eyespots. Unlike hybridized chrysanthemums, which are usually bred for color, Korean Daisies are the straight species and are fabulously fragrant. Their period of florescence is from September through October, oftentimes into early November; only a hard frost stops their bloom power.
With just these three beauties, one could have a staggered and continuously fragrant garden in bloom from July through November–and create Mecca for butterflies on the wing.
An ancient variety of chrysanthemum originating from China, the ‘Emperor of China’ resembles and is thought to be the chrysanthemum depicted in early Chinese paintings. Chrysanthemums are also grown for their medicinal properties, and their purported magic juices were an important ingredient in the life-prolonging elixir of the Daoist. Fragrant chrysanthemum tea was considered good for the health, and tonic wine was brewed from an infusion of their petals. Although thought to be rich in healing properties and lovely in form, a more modest well-being was conferred by the vigorous blossoming of the chrysanthemum. Perhaps the late flowering chrysanthemum suggests their connection to a long life, for other plants have finished flowering just as the chrysanthemums begin.
The techniques for learning to paint the orchid, bamboo, plum blossom, and chrysanthemum comprise the basis of Chinese flower and bird painting. They are referred to as “The Four Gentlemen” and are thought to symbolize great intellectual ideas. The orchid is serene and peaceful, though sophisticated and reserved from the world. Bamboo is vigorous and survives throughout the seasons, forever growing upright. The plum blossom expresses yin-yang dualities of delicate and hardy, blooming through snow and ice to herald the arrival of spring. Chrysanthemums continue to flower after a frost, are self-sufficient, and require no assistance in propogating themselves.
China owes its astonishing wealth of plant life to a combination of geographical incidents. The mountains escaped the ravages of the great ice caps and unlike much of Europe and North America, where many plants were wiped out, plant species in China continued to evolve. Additionally, the foothills of the Himalayas are moistened by soft winds from the south, creating an ideal climate for alpine plants. In this warm and moderate environment, three different floras – that of the colder, drier north; that of the sub-tropical south; and that of the alpine species – all mingled and crossed freely for thousands of years.
Chrysanthemum tea is a tisane made from dried chrysanthemum flowers. The flowers are steeped in boiling water for several minutes, and rock sugar or honey is often added to heighten the sweet aroma. Popular throughout east Asia, chrysanthemum tea is usually served with a meal. In the tradition of Chinese medicine, the tisane is thought to be a “cooling” herb and is recommended for a variety of ailments including influenza, circulatory disorders, sore throats, and fever.
Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’ begins its lovely tableau in mid-fall and continues to bloom through the first hard frost. Plum rose with silvery highlights, the quills shade paler toward the outer margins. When the plant is in full bloom, the rich green foliage shifts colors to vibrant hues of bronze to scarlet red. The ‘Emperor of China’ exudes a delicious lemon-spice fragrance noticeable from some distance.
As with New York asters, it is helpful to pinch the tips of each shoot to encourage branching and more blossoms. Repeat this process at each four- to six- inch stage of new growth until the middle of July, or when the buds begin to develop. ‘Emperor of China’ is hardy through zone six and thrives in full sun to light shade in well-drained soil. This cultivar forms a 21/2′ mound in only a few years. Give the plant a top dressing of compost and mulch after the first hard frost.
Leave a comment or question on any of the posts by Friday at 8PM to be entered into the drawing to win. Multiple entries are allowed. One person will be chosen at random. The book will be shipped on Monday, the 17th, which should allow time for it to arrive by Christmas. Shipping is included to addresses within the United States and Canada.
Praise for Oh Garden: Smith’s writing is lithe and clean and her experiences in conjuring beauty out of her garden in Gloucester make for excellent reading.
—Hawk and Whippoorwill
Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Part One: Creating the Framework, Chapte Three ~ Planting in Harmony with Nature
Magnolia virginiana ~ Sweetbay Magnolia
Located in the heart of Ravenswood Park in Gloucester there is a stand of Magnolia virginiana growing in the Great Magnolia Swamp. It is the only population of sweetbay magnolias known to grow this far north. I took one look at the native sweetbay magnolia and breathed in the fresh lemon-honeysuckle bouquet of the blossoms, fell in love, and immediately set out to learn all I could about this graceful and captivating tree.
Returning from a trip to visit my family in northern Florida, I had tucked the bud of a the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) into my suitcase to paint upon my return. I was dreaming of someday having a garden large enough to accommodate a Magnolia grandiflora and was elated to discover how similar our sweetbay magnolia is to the Southern magnolia. For those not familiar with the Southern magnolia, it is a grand, imposing specimen in the landscape, growing up to fifty feet in the cooler zones five and six, and one hundred feet plus in the southern states. M. grandiflora is the only native magnolia that is evergreen in its northern range, flowering initially in the late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. The creamy white flowers, enormous and bowl-shaped (ten to twelve inches across), emit a delicious, heady sweet lemon fragrance.
In contrast, the flowers of the sweetbay magnolia are smaller, ivory white, water-lily cup shaped, and sweetly scented of citrus and honeysuckle. The leaves are similar in shape to the Magnolia grandiflora, ovate and glossy viridissimus green on the topside, though they are more delicate, and lack the leathery toughness of the Southern magnolia. The lustrous rich green above and the glaucous silvery green on the underside of the foliage creates a lovely ornamental bi-color effect as the leaves are caught in the seasonal breezes.
Magnolia virginiana is an ideal tree for a small garden in its northern range growing to roughly twenty feet compared to the more commanding height of a mature Southern magnolia. M. virginiana grows from Massachusetts to Florida in coastal freshwater wetland areas as an understory tree. The tree can be single- or multi-stemmed. Sweetbay is a stunning addition to the woodland garden with an open form, allowing a variety of part-shade loving flora to grow beneath the airy canopy. The leaves are a larval food for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Almost immediately after planting we began to notice the swallowtails gliding from the sunny borders of the front dooryard, where an abundance of nectar-rich flowers are planted specifically to attract butterflies, around to the shady border in the rear yard where our sweetbay is located.
Garden designs are continually evolving. Part of our garden has given way to a limited version of a woodland garden, for the shady canopy created by the ever-growing ceiling of foliage of our neighboring trees has increasingly defined our landscape. We sited our Magnolia virginiana in the center of our diminutive shaded woodland garden where we can observe the tree from the kitchen window while standing at the kitchen sink. Gazing upon the tree bending and swaying gracefully in the wind, displaying its shifting bi-color leaves, provides a pleasant view when tending to daily chores.
Leave a comment or question on any of the posts by Friday at 8PM to be entered into the drawing to win. Multiple entries are allowed. One person will be chosen at random. The book will be shipped on Monday, the 17th, which should allow time for it to arrive by Christmas. Shipping is included to addresses within the United States and Canada.
Praise for Oh Garden! from The Boston Globe’s Carol Stocker ~ Oh Garden! is a treasure, and perhaps the best garden gift book of the season. Both dream-like and practical, it captures the gardener’s journey by integrating personal essays, hand’s-on advice, and paintings. —The Boston Globe
A Pair of Monarchs Mating in Our Pear Trees
Excerpt from Part One: Creating the Framework, Chapter One
He who plants pears, Plants for heirs
Pyrus communis, or common European pear, is not seen growing in the wild. The cultivated pears as we know them today are thought to be derived from Pyrus nivalis and P. caucasia. Few pears ripen well on the tree and that may be one reason they have not been grown as extensively in America as apples and peaches, although apple and peach trees are not as long lived as pear trees. A healthy pear tree can live and bear fruit for several centuries.
The trick to harvesting pears is to pick them as they are ripening, while they are still quite firm. If you wait until the flesh yields with pressure on the outside, the fruit will be rotted inside. Each individual variety of pears has an estimated ripening date from when the tree blooms. Note the date when the tree begins to flower and count the days forward to the approximate ripening time. The quality of the soil, where the tree is sited, as well as changes in the weather from year to year will influence the number of days until the pears are ready to be harvested. Bearing in mind that this is only an approximation, begin monitoring the fruit closely as the day approaches. Nearing the correct time of harvest, the color of the fruit will begin to change. For example, the ‘Beurre Bosc’ begins to turn a light golden yellow beneath its russet skin. Carefully hold the stem of the pear in one hand and the fruit-bearing spur in the other hand. Gently twist with an upward turn. Remove the pear and stem, not the bumpy, fruit-bearing spur. It takes several years for a spur to develop, and if damaged or accidentally harvested with the pear, the crop will be significantly decreased the following year.
Stack the fruit in the coldest section of a refrigerator and store for several weeks. After two to three weeks, remove a pear or two and let it ripen at room temperature for several days. At this point the pear will ideally be fully ripe and ready to eat. Depending on the cultivar, pears will keep for weeks to several months when kept well chilled.
Just in time for your holiday gift giving, my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden, which I both wrote and illustrated, is on sale on my publisher’s website for only 15.00. The price is unbeatable as the list cost is 35.00. Oh Garden! makes an ideal gift for the garden-maker and nature lover on your holiday gift list and at this price, I recommend you buy one for yourself and one for a friend!
Praise for Oh Garden ~
Anyone who gardens along the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to South Carolina will appreciate Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! (David R. Godine, $35). This book is filled with design ideas and plants that work well in this coastal region, as author and garden designer Kim Smith relates her experiences with her garden in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The first part of the book, “Creating the Framework,” delves into trees, shrubs, and other elements for creating structure in the garden, while the second section addresses how to fill out the framework to create a harmonious living tapestry in your garden. —Viveka Neveln, The American Gardener
Oh Garden! is a 250 page hardcover book crammed full of the most excellent gardening advice you will find anywhere, guiding you through the four seasons, and woven throughout with over 85 illustrations, and fabulous plant lists. All week I will be bringing you excerpts from my book, with more praises from The Boston Globe and other literary reviewers.
In preparing for the lecture I presented for the Manchester Garden Club, which was held at Long Hill in Beverly, I came across several “before” photos of Willowdale Estate, from the spring of 2008, which was the year I began working on the gardens. By the way, the Manchester Garden Cub ladies could not have been more welcoming, and enthusiastic about my program. Thank you Constance and Marne for inviting me to speak to your lovely group, and for all your kind assistance!
Taming the Wisteria Willowdale Estate Spring 2008
I’ve learned over the years to always take the all-important “before” photos. My lecture attendees, clients, and prospective clients, love, love to see the transformation documented!
Five months later, September 2008. We created a “wisteria arbor” that guests could pass through.
New to our garden this year is the Quilled Sweet Coneflower. The finely quilled sunny yellow petals are simply lovely, as is the overall shape of the plant. The wildflower is a North American native and bears the name of the southern Illinois horticulturist and prairie restoration specialist who found it growing in a railroad prairie remnant.
When lightly rubbed, the leaves of Rudbeckia subtomentosa reveal their sweet vanilla scent. I’ll let you know if it attracts bees, butterflies, and songbirds when the center florets open.
Railroad Prairie Remnants
“…the only remnant of any virgin, unplowed prairie that remains is along railroad tracks. When the railroads were originally built in the 1800′s, if they were going over a natural prairie, all they had to do was lay down the wooden crossties, pack in bed fill, and lay the rails….the remaining right-of-way remained essentially undisturbed. In many locales, a road also was constructed parallel to new tracks, so that the few hundred feet of railroad right-of-way trapped between the tracks and the road remained unplowed to this day, and in many areas has reserved a remarkable diversity of prairie species. In most areas, accidental fires happen fairly regularly, which enhances the vigor of the prairie vegetation.” Larry Lowman, Arkansas nurseryman and native plants specialist.
I never know what interesting species I am going to encounter when at Willowdale– usually tending to find more of the native variety–
From wiki: Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, is a resident breeder in South Asia. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India and the provincial bird of the Punjab. The term peafowl can refer to the two species of bird in the genus Pavo of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. Peafowl are best known for the male’s extravagant tail, which it displays as part of courtship. The male is called a peacock, and the female a peahen. The female peafowl is brown or toned grey and brown.
Come join us tomorrow evening in the garden at Willowdale.
3 minute video featuring the Eastern Carpenter Bee. The music is the opening movement of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) is an important pollinator for many open-faced spring flowers including the blossoms of fruiting trees—crabapple, apple, pear, peach, plum, and wild cherry—as well as holly and brambles. X. virginica has an especially bad reputation with blueberry growers because they have strong mouthparts (capable of boring into wood), which will easily tear flowers with a deep corolla—blueberries and azaleas, for example. In the video you can see the bee probing into the sides of, and in some instances tearing, the petals to gather nectar from the blossoming Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica). The damage done to wood is usually minimal and cosmetic.
Carpenter Bees are regularly mistaken for bumblebees. Their shiny black abdomen most easily distinguishes them. Male and female carpenter bees can easily be differentiated at a glance. The male has a patch of yellowish-white cuticle at the top its head; the females face is entirely black.
Male Eastern Carpenter Bees are aggressively territorial. They will fly at you noisily and vigorously when in their territory, but it is all just show—they are incapable of stinging!
Reminder to save the date ~ A week from Tuesday, on the evening of June 12th, I am giving a tour of the butterfly gardens at Willowdale Estate. We will be showing my short film about the gardens at Willowdale and Briar’s delicious refreshments will be served. I am very excited to share the gardens and show how to translate this information to your own garden. I hope you can join us for what promises to be a lovely evening!
Oftentimes well-meaning hybridizers neglect fragrance, instead favoring a particular color or over-sized blooms. Hemerocallis dumortieri is a species daylily, which means the plant you see growing in the garden is exactly as you would find it growing in fields of wildflowers in Manchuria, eastern Russia, Korea, and Japan. The golden yellow-orange flowers have a scent to match their color; the fragrance is a heavenly combination of orange blossoms and honeysuckle.
H. dumortieri is one of the earliest daylilies to flower, beginning to bloom in May in eastern Massachusetts. The plants are compact, with narrow, arching leaves and the copper-hued buds open to warm marigold-yellow, star-shaped flowers; the backs of the tepals are washed with reddish brown striations.
This past week at Willowdale we planted the stunning tree peony ‘Keiko’, which means “adored.” Briar’s favorite color is pink so I am always on high alert for rose-hued blossoms. I took one look at this drop dead gorgeous plant and just had to have it for Willowdale. Don’t you find in nature there are seemingly infinite shades of pink? The beautiful blowsy blossoms of ‘Keiko’ possess myriad.
Did I mention ‘Adored’ is delightfully fragrant? The fragrance is sweet, but not cloying–very light and fresh.