The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Disanthus cercidifolius: A Star in the Woodland Garden

The deep red-purple foliage of Disanthus cercidifolius can be seen from every angle in the Woodland Garden right now. It suffered slightly during our summer drought  but looked spectacular today.  Disanthus cercidifolius has heart-shaped bluish-green leaves during the summer which are subtly attractive in the garden. It should mature to about 6-10 feet in height over time. I have under-planted it Helleborus foetidus, the stinking hellebore. The deeply-cut dark green foliage compliments the round leaves of Disanthus cercidifolius nicely.  Disanthus cercidifolius has done well for me in dappled shade planted in humus-rich, moist soil.

Lindera glauca var. angustifolia was not looking too shabby today either.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Aster 'Little Carlow'

Aster 'Little Carlow' is my favorite autumn perennial. It lights up the garden with masses of violet-blue daisies with yellow centers. It has a beautiful billowing habit that is very graceful. The trick is to cut it back in early July. My experience is that 'Little Carlow' also benefits from extra watering during dry periods to get the best results. With a little effort, 'Little Carlow' will reward the gardener for the first two weeks of autumn.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Garden the Last Day in September

My belief is that an autumn garden in New England should shine and be at its best when the weather and light is the most beautiful. Most gardens feel spent at this time of year. I want my garden to feel fresh and vibrant as the fall foliage season begins. I use annuals for both flower and foliage and late season perennials, most notably asters and grasses. What can say New England better than asters in autumn? Here's what the garden looked like this week. We had a light frost earlier this week which did little damage. I am hoping for another couple of weeks of this before a hard frost hits. I don't see temperatures below the upper 30s in the next two weeks...time will tell.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Another View

A slightly different view of the terrace in the Lower Garden photographed by my son, Teddy.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Garden After Another Tour

I had a garden tour from Albany, NY visit my garden and the Peterborough public gardens on Wednesday. We are having a severe drought here in New Hampshire but the garden has held up reasonably well. Here are some photos of the garden and some plant IDs for the visitors.

The Lower Garden from the terrace

Lower Garden head-on from the opposite direction

From another angle in the Lower Garden

The granite, yew and boxwoods in the Hall with Balls illustrates how strong structure in the garden can be very useful during a drought as well as in winter.

'Peterborough' Adirondack chairs in the Woodland Garden

Dahlia 'Happy Single Juliet' is turning out to be one of the few dahlias that I can rely on in southern New Hampshire. It is sturdy and produces many single bright pink flowers that pop visually in the garden against the dark foliage. There are other colors of single anemone-type dahlias in the 'Happy' series that I am thinking of trying next year.

I got this gomphrena called 'All Around Purple' from Helen O'Donnell at Bunker Farm in Dummerston, VT. Helen propagates an exciting list of plants each year. You can find her plant list for 2016 here. She specializes in unusual plants, many of which she learned about at her time gardening for Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter.

I let this tuberous begonia called 'Sparks Will Fly' go dormant in my basement last year and it came back beautifully. I love the tangerine-colored flowers against the lightly-veined dark foliage.

This is Clematis tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie' in the crabapple tree in the Upper Garden. I have noticed several seedlings of this clematis in the garden which I will let grow to see what the progeny look like.

I never tire of the fresh foliage of Amicia zygomeris. I may attempt taking cuttings this year. I found some excellent instructions, again from Great Dixter,  on how to do it here.

This annual red-leafed hibiscus called 'Mahogany Splendor' is also from Helen at Bunker Farm. By the end of the season, it turns into a robust shrub which looks a dwarf Japanese maple.

Here is another Helen O'Donnell plant, a variegated kiss-me-over-the garden-gate called  Persicaria orientalis "Shiro gane Nishiki'. It is just beginning to flower but the foliage has been an eye-catching feature throughout the season. I will be getting this plant again next year!

Melanthus major is my all-time favorite annual for the garden. The pleated glaucous foliage smells like peanut butter when it is rubbed but its best attribute is that it gets bigger and better throughout the season and survives the first wave of light frosts in autumn.

Cuphea llavea 'Bat Face' is a useful front-of-the-border plant that looks great for an extended season with little effort and no dead-heading.

Mina lobata 'Exotic Love', aka the firecracker vine, again from Helen

Finally, a volunteer seedling of Nicotiana sylverstris. This fragrant tobacco plant lands exactly where I need it every year. This time, it emerged from the brickwork at a corner of the Lower Garden that wasn't quite living up to expectations. Nicotiana sylverstris always exceeds expectations wherever it pops up. The huge, and oddly sticky, foliage is a dramatic feature that quickly identifies this plant as being from the tobacco tribe. I am a big fan of self-seeding nicotianas in the garden. I probably have 7 or 8 different species and/or cultivars, many of them are also intoxicatingly fragrant.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bill Noble's Mixed Border in Norwich, VT

Last week, I took some time out from my garden to visit several gardens that I have been wanting to see again. I had visited Bill Noble's garden in Norwich, VT several years ago and returned for a visit last week. Bill was the former Director of Preservation at the Garden Conservancy and has been involved in numerous preservation projects throughout the country including the Garden Conservancy's first project, The Fells Estate and Gardens in Newbury, NH. One of Bill's signature plants is a Himalayan rhubarb called Rheum australe which can be seen in the foreground of the photo above. Behind is his mixed border which looked sumptuous in the late afternoon cloudy lighting. The border includes hydrangeas, phlox, Joe Pye weed, red barberries and the ever-reliable 'Autumn Joy' sedum. I kept asking myself "Why doesn't my garden look this wonderful?"


This year, there has been a major shift in my mid-week activities as I have retired from designing and maintaining the gardens in the public parks in Peterborough, NH. My goal was to use a public/partnership funded by grants, private funding, and taxpayers' money to create public spaces that were maintained by volunteers, collaborating with Public Works personnel, that had the intimacy of a private garden. With the support of our former Town Administrator, Pam Brenner, and a cadre of gifted and devoted volunteers, most notably, my good gardening buddy, Maude Odgers, I have achieved my goal. After 18 years of working most Wednesdays from April to November, I have decided that it was time to try something new, oil painting. My first painting is Mount Monadnock as can seen from the top of Pack Mondanock, a mountain I have frequently hiked and know intimately. I have seen this view in almost every weather condition imaginable every month of the year so it seemed like the perfect place to begin painting.

I inherited my maternal grandfather's painting supplies and many of the paints were still usable 40 years after his death. It has been a great joy to use his paints, brushes, linseed oil and pallet to create art. Leaving my work in the public sphere has been bittersweet but I am thrilled to give oil painting a try. Don't worry that I will stop gardening in my private garden, I expect to be gardening there for decades to come. Another new goal I have is host more tours of gardens in Europe. I have trip planned for September, 2017 which I will be posting about in the near future.


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