Aside

The spring season was packed with designs, plantings, weeds, and a few bugs so it’s time to take a trip. I have been negligent about posting to my new blog (I know I join a legion of others on that score) so I will be compensating with a deluge of photos from a little trip. A rather long trip, in fact, touring dozens of gardens from the top to the bottom of France.

Tomorrow I fly to Paris with my horticultural travel companion extraordinaire, Charles Cresson, for an intensive schedule of Metro stops to visit the 3 V’s: Vaux le Vicomte, Versailles, and Villandry. We will also be heading south to Toulouse for a few days which will be new terrain for us both. In the middle of all this, we join the Scott Arboretum tour group to head northwest of Paris into the Loire Valley, Normandy and Brittany with plenty of private garden stops along the way. We will be looking for historic roses, Japanese-style gardens, potager gardens, gardening techniques, new cultivars, and extreme design. Since I took about 5,000 photos in my 3 weeks in Japan, this should require at least that many!

Then there is the wine and cheese, de rigueur for traveling in France. And, if a few escargot float by in garlic and butter I may have to eat those too.

Astilbe Angst Averted

Astilbe Angst Averted
The Master Gardeners who host the Springfest Flower and Garden Show in New Jersey have a lovely program with short garden articles. I was so pleased to find mine included.

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Sharing Memories

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The Master Gardeners who host the Springfest Flower and Garden Show in New Jersey have a lovely program with short garden articles. I was so pleased to find mine included.

Saracennia

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They can look so exotic and foreign that I think many shoppers might think they would be impossible to have in the garden. Although they do have some specific growing requirements (consistent moisture, sun) these cool plants aren’t so different from other plants, except, they eat bugs!! I have them at my front door where everyone walking by asks about the strange spring flowers and the bracts continue to look good after the petals fall. By then, the leaves are pushing up with a crazy diversity of colors and forms. They come tall, short, red, yellow, white, fat, skinny and each phase of growth is equally fabulous. A funny thing happened when I first put the plants in the ground. As soon as the empty pots were cleared away a bee flew right down one of the tube-shaped leaves. I happened to have my camera to catch it for my DIY talk on what else: building a raised bog planter at your front door! Since Saracennias never get fertilizer and rain fills the reservoir under the soil line, I consider it a very low maintenance planter. It’s quite pleasant to occasionally sit  on the stone edge and clean it of fallen leaves or spent flowers. The plants look cool and the flowers are unbelievable. What more could you want?

Need Something New? How about a Variegated Hydrangea?

Hydrangea ‘Lemon Wave’

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Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lemon Wave’

When you have a chartreuse garden, you tend to look for matching plants. This broken stick in a pot was in the year-end discount area of a nursery with a tag showing a yellow variegated hydrangea so I thought, perfect! My friends said that it wouldn’t bloom and would revert. Neither of those things has happened, in fact, it has been fully fabulously variegated with bright yellow to cream splashes every year and sets pale lilac trusses of flowers.

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Atami Plum Garden Festival

Two years ago today I was in Japan waiting for the Ume (Mume in the USA) to bloom. Finally, in the last week, I was able to enjoy this lovely walk through an iconic Japanese scene.

From their website: “Atami Plum Garden, famous for Japan’s earliest plum blossoms and latest autumn leaves since it was opened in 1886. It is the site of 454 trees of 60 species including a ancient plum tree more than 100 years old. You can enjoy it year round, not just in the plum blossom season.”
http://japan-attractions.jp/festivals/atami-plum-garden-festival-2014/

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Kleim’s Hardy’

This super fragrant gardenia makes a perfect small shrub for my small garden.

This super fragrant gardenia makes a perfect small shrub for my small garden.

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Kleim’s Hardy’

When you grow up in the south, gardenias are second nature to you. Thank goodness for microclimates because I have been able to enjoy this beautifully fragrant gardenia for many years. If there is frost damage, I am careful to remove stems and leaves without losing any healthy flower buds for summer flowers. The shrub is certainly shorter than it could be a couple zones south but it is covered with flowers and glossy attractive foliage is summer nonetheless. Listed for Zones 7 to 11, I’ve been heaping snow all winter trying to cover mine for this extraordinary winter we are having so it will be interesting to see what happens come spring.