Mist on the moors. Flannel shirt to start the day. Heavy dew. Fall. What a change a day can bring. 70-degree days put a spring in the gardener’s step. An all-night rain would spell perfection. Well, at least we aren’t up against forest fires and floods.
And with it all, a slowing down in garden chores – gives us a chance to take a free moment to appreciate the results of our months - long efforts. Rewards for our putting our noses to the grindstone. It did seem a slog at times – dragging hoses, fighting back weeds, and battling pests – mostly of the 4-legged variety, but some slimy ones who don’t have any legs at all.
That garden bench looks mighty appealing at day’s end. And what catches our eye this time of year? Well, there are hibiscus, their large red discs stealing the show – almost too garish, but what a delight. Late – blooming cimicifugas spark shady nooks, verbena bonariensis lends a proper autumnal air. Dahlias are coming into their own, right-on cue, Japanese anemones in white and fuchsia bring a smile for their sauciness. Sedums, yarrows, phlox and allium all add their own touch to the show. Oh, and colchicums, those wondrous fall blooming bulbs, pop up overnight to dazzle us and add punch to their neck of the woods. And hydrangeas – don’t we wait all summer for their brand of attractiveness!
Enjoy the show.
While you’re at it, think about adding some perennials to fill garden holes or to replace plants that haven’t performed up to expectations. Fall is a dandy time to commence planting and Kelley & Kelley has our best ever selection to tempt you..
Isn’t it the time of year to begin assessing what we’ve done in the garden that pleases us and, likewise, what we shake our heads over and raise our eyebrows as if to intimate, “Whatever were we thinking?”
At the nursery, a delightful plant combination makes us smile every time we pass it by. In the driveway garden, as we call it, is a planting of Stachys ‘Helene von Stein’ and Calamintha nepeta var. nepeta. The fuzzy ears of the stachys invite a caress and we’re nuts over the calamint, which never ceases to amaze us with its nonstop bloom that is attractive to pollinators of all sorts and for its ironclad demeanor. I was specific in referring to nepeta var. nepeta as it, unlike other popular cultivars, doesn’t seed around. Into this mix this spring we planted an annual artemisia, ‘Powis Castle,’ whose silvery, lacy foliage is always lush, and the annual dinosaur kale, whose nubbly silvery-blue leaves add a bold, upright texture.
All in all, a pleasing combination of textures and colors. Save for the rather filmy calamint flowers, an interesting panoply of foliage. As I said, not every combination we concoct knocks our socks off, but this one sure does.
Our reward for nonstop doing, doing, doing in the gardens – the vistas right now of waves of color. The garden is ablaze with a rainbow’s worth of phlox, coneflowers, hardy hibiscus, daylilies, sedum, veronicastrum, nepeta, on and on. You undoubtedly can add all sorts of perennials to that list.
A long weekend away last week reminded us why we garden for a living. Madison Wisconsin was the destination of a Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Assn. trip. Our visit included four private gardens, a public garden, an arboretum, a corporate campus, a convention center, and a nursery or two. A lot crammed into three days, for sure. Of course, plants of all manner were the reason for the journey, but beyond that draw, the folks we met along the way rejuvenated our outlook and put a spring in our steps confirming what we already know – that plant people are the bestest in the whole world. All our hosts and hostesses couldn’t have been more welcoming and gracious. Proving once again that we garden not for ourselves alone, but to share our love, our knowledge, our dreams. Yes, dreams – isn’t there always tomorrow in the garden. Hopes and dreams.
I was about to write that plants hereabouts need water as much as humans and we should drag out the hoses on their behalf. Then we (finally) were lucky enough to be blessed with a nice soaking last weekend. Our rain gauge measured nearly two inches, the most we’ve had all season. Gardens received a welcome relief, but I think trees and shrubs that were showing signs of distress could still do with a deep soak to lift their spirits. We’re still 5 or 6 inches below “normal”.
Driving around last week, I saw many boulevard trees and shrubs looking weary, barely able to hold up their leaves. I felt sorry for the newish lilacs along Highway 100 in St. Louis Park – their namesake stretch of highway – struggling to maintain their composure. An aside – I remember more leisurely times when that highway boasted little rest stops with regular picnic areas sporting barbecue grills and tables. Yes, quieter time alright.
Rains have been spotty this year – 10 miles distant from us may have been graced with a deluge and we - nothing. It’s been that way most of the summer – rains forecasted for us let out a snicker before heading north and south, leaving us to moan in the dust.
Despite it all, gardens look great. Right now, coneflowers and alliums and calamint lead the parade. Phlox, too, and yarrows and thalictrum and Russian sage. Hydrangeas are winning blue ribbons.
Today I woke up to 55 degrees. A flannel shirt felt mighty fine. Who can complain about that?
Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate some more. Well, the gardeners hereabouts made it through unscathed the hot spell last week. Wish I could say the same for a few plants in our care. Our gardens suffered – not for the lack of water, we were on top of that – but from the searing heat. Hosta, astilbe, epimedium, ferns and primroses took it on the chin. Not all of them, mind you, but ones that for whatever reason, couldn’t stand it any longer. They’ll be ok, but, as they look forlorn, we’re glad we’ve no garden parties in the near future. Peony bloom, due to the heat and wind, was shortened. We can hope for better next year. Yes, and wind, have you ever seen such a blustery start to the gardening year? Unrelenting. Sticks have littered the yard for weeks. And a substantial maple limb – half the tree actually - came crashing to earth a few weeks ago in our woodland garden. Sad.
We still have a few annuals – looking good – we’d like to find homes for – you? To sweeten the pot, take advantage of a 2 for price of one sale. Those salvias, marigolds and impatiens would really look better in your pots and gardens than on our benches.
Abloom right now are Martagon lilies. If you aren’t familiar with these beauties, find yourself to the nursery and be dazzled by rich colors and whimsical form. Unique in all the world.
Spring continues its delightfully deliberate unfolding. The color of daffodils, lilacs and Virginia bluebells are locked in memory for another year. Now we delight in the next round-ancient honeysuckle bushes either side of our driveway at home are a sight right now with a spicy fragrance that can be sensed from across the way. Another shrub that should be wider known – white fringe tree – makes us smile with its feathery, white, dangling blossoms. In the garden, tree peonies, hardy geranium, iris of all stripes, and Sieboldii primroses have taken center stage. And at wood’s edge, that pleasantly invasive Hesperis matronalis (dame’s rocket or bouncing bet in lay person’s lingo) lights up its domain with pastel, phlox – like blooms.
The gardens were looking mighty presentable til all of a sudden a blanket of weeds frustrated us. Luckily, most were annual weeds and easily (relatively easily) dispatched. Chickweed being the worst offender. Friends report the same, so we didn’t feel singled out – slim consolation. Our solution was to scuffle the mess, removing to the dump the worst specimens before covering the whole kit and caboodle with several inches of compost, hoping against hope to smother the offenders into oblivion. We’ll see if that plan works.
It’s the time of year that we do not question why we live in Minnesota. Powder – blue skies brimming with cream puff clouds skittering by. Dewy mornings whose crisp air is almost bracing. Don’t put away the flannel just yet. And, oh, the floral displays. The cool temps prolong color of serviceberry, forsythia (for our open house recently, employee Matt cut a big, bold clutch of forsythia branches from his yard and I was surprised to see the flowers still fresh five days later) wild plum (a gnarly shrub that doesn’t stand out in any other season now fills roadside ditches with clouds of white), redbud – glorious redbud, what a radiant surprise of woodland’s understory - and lilac and crabapples show promise of great delights to come. All this magnificence, unfolding slowly, deliberately, all for us to enjoy. Ample rain for now (lakes and river levels are rising), though the weather prognosticators are still shooting for a hot, dry summer. All the more reason to make the best of these delicious days.
Ok, who can explain why, as we are cleaning up our gardens, why we are facing such a tapestry of weeds? And not only seedlings, which we can understand, but mature dandelions and chickweed and thistles. It’ll have to remain an unexplained mystery of nature.
We’re all for the No Mow May movement, whose purpose is to allow whatever flowers that may be inhabiting your lawn – obviously not lawns that have been treated to eradicate weeds – for the benefit of pollinators. We’ll have violets, creeping Charle and dandelions ( clover later) that we hope to see through several weeds of bloom. My only concern is that the lawn, by the end of May, could be ankle high and well beyond it’s first appointment with the lawn mower. We’ll see if we can hold out.
I’ve told this story so many times, so once more won’t hurt, I guess.
For years, friends have been after me to publish the spring newsletters in book form. For years I demurred. I figured that the essays, being published once, were out in the world – enough. I held my ground until one persistent (in a nice way) friend, having heard “no” longer than she could bear, called up one Saturday morning a few years ago – “Steve, it’s Cindy, will you be in the office for a while?” “Yes” “Okay, stay put, I’m bringing a publisher over.” Oh dear, one can only say “no” so many times before being worn down.
Publisher Norton Stillman was persuasive and a charm (a lethal combination). I sighed, still not sure the whole thing was a good idea – yet another gardening book? But time went on and the more I got into it, the more enthused I became. Well, maybe “enthused” is too strong a work – “Agreeable” perhaps? “Resigned” perhaps?
Dovetailing a book with the company’s Centennial celebration did seem appropriate. Working with editor John Toren, the book took shape. The process was fun, not too painful, but very time-consuming. Thank heavens for the relaxed time of winter.
So now, a book. We dubbed it “A Century in the Garden” I think (bias showing) it turned out just fine. It’s available at the nursery.
Gosh, not a lot happening greenery-wise hereabouts since I last logged in. The gardens seem suspended – not the normal springtime bursting forth. In our yard, snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) carry the day and claim the most abundant flowers in memory. We must plant more. We drool at the sight of English landscapes awash with snowdrops and want nothing less for ourselves but realize that the British have had a bit of a head start on us snowdrop-wise. There was a small, one-man nursery in the east that specialized in snowdrops, and we were avid customers, falling for snowdrops with tempting names such as ‘Tubby Merlin’, ‘Grumpy’, ‘Blewbury Tart’, ‘Walrus’, and ‘Baxendale’s Late’.
They all are worth having, of course, and all are known for some quirk that makes them eminently collectable. Truth to tell, we’re as happy with plain old Galanthus nivalis and they happy with us, increasing in luxuriousness year to year, showing no inclination whatsoever to diminish in vigor. We vow to plant more – or did I say that already.
While little else of floral interest just yet, the keen eye fixes on little happenstances – catkins gracing birch and hazelnut, the first dragonflies flitting about, fat buds on helleborus, ferns and bloodroot, which are signals of joys to come, and the hint of leaves on elderberry bushes in the wild. Oh yes, spring is on its way – slowly and deliberately this year.
We busy ourselves in the gardens as we can, working from pathways and garden’s edge, clearing leaves, and removing last year’s growth from perennials, and trimming papery 2021 blooms from spirea and hydrangeas. Anything to be outside and productive once again. Still too mucky to traipse through the garden. Working outside, though, was made less than fun last weekend by the fierce winds. Even given the appearance - if ever so brief – of the sun last weekend, the whirlwinds that befell us were unsettling. Sitting on a garden bench and taking it all in – normally a delightful experience at day’s end - seemed not so enjoyable. Let’s hope for more pleasant days ahead.
Though at times it seems like a long ways till spring really is upon us for good, still, they’re after me to pick up the pen and again dash off a few words horticultural. Looking out the window – this mid-April day……. well, best to not look out the window. We’ve had a few delightful days (remember?) here and there recently when the sun shone and shirt sleeves were the order of the day, when we saw snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) a bloom – aren’t they spectacular this year? Ditto the winter aconite – those upward – facing little buttercups. We vow to plant skads more of them next fall. A special plant is Adonis – special because it was given to us by a dear gardening friend. It’s not commonly grown here, so is a treat when we see it bloom right now. Lemony – yellow chalices face the sky and greet all comers. Happy. So, we’ve begun our entries in our garden journal, with notes of those blooms as well as notes on the first round of deer repellant applied (March 18). And the first dragonfly sighting (April 11). And first Virginia bluebells poking through tentatively (April 14th). We spied a tight bud on Hepatica ballardii and will made a mental note to put chicken wire around it – squirrels nipped buds to the ground last year. Checking last year’s journal, we see that our crews started back to work March 21 and the gardens were a blaze with color – even hellebores were up and at ‘em. Plenty of prosperous – looking buds this year promise good things. A waiting game right now. We were tickled at have a film crew from Kare 11 news roaming our grounds and greenhouse yesterday morning to highlight the quirky weather – wind and chill – for their evening news program. They even gave a plug for Kelley and Kelley’s 100th anniversary doings. A reminder – our annual spring open house isn’t far off. We’re hoping for seasonably comfortable weather May 7th. Hope you can join us then for the extra special festivities.
Didn’t someone predict that fall’s colors would likely be lack luster this year? Me? I disagree heartly. Even given the winds and rains we’ve experienced recently, I see plenty of glorious color festooning trees and shrubs, and most have never looked better. In our yard, especially stunning are ornamental pear, bluebeech, viburnum ‘Forest Rouge’, three flowered maple, witchhazel and hazelnut. Tamarack and red oaks are beginning to change their stripes and ginkgos are hinting at something great any day now.
Arla finds fall her favorite season and I’d not disagree. There’s less stress to get in the way, meaning there’s relaxing time to enjoy it all. That garden bench is getting a workout.
That said, we did spend the past weekend – a beautiful one with clear blue skies and moderate temps – packing stuff up for the season. Isn’t it a good feeling to see the pots and planters emptied of their annuals. It was time – we felt a mild freeze Friday night that finished off fuchsias and begonias. And tomato plants will have to be fodder for the compost pile. Emptied pots will be tucked away in the back room of the garage, tropical plants will be relocated to the greenhouse across the street (thank you, Kelley and Kelley) and terrace furniture will find a winter home inside as well. All’s in order. The last few rains topped off the rain barrels, so we’ve been using that water to furnish newly planted trees and shrubs with one last swig.
The gardens still hold allure. Stunning combinations of dusky shades of lavender, maroon, and salmon – typical fall fare – strike just the right melancholy note. Grays and silvers of seed heads liven the scene. Frosty mornings recently revealed an ethereal, winsome tableau. Late, late floral color is limited, but includes - in addition to the usual asters - monkshood, Japanese anemone and ‘White Pearl’ cimicifuga. Late October and still enough interest to help us love what we do.
Contentment. I’m not sure I’d given much thought to the idea pre-pandemic. I’d pretty much done as I’d pleased without a notion that life should be otherwise. Now, with constraints, we have learned to live with less. Less flying about at the drop of a hat, less socializing with family, friends, and cohorts (No holiday gatherings? Heavens), less time spent in restaurants, theaters, galleries, health clubs and stores! (My, how we missed the state fair). Who among us could have conceived that all the narrowing of options would be a relief. Do we need to be constantly on the go? Are we often racing frantically to keep two steps ahead of what life throws at us? That said, could we now take the time to cultivate an appreciation – see anew – the magic close to home? How often we walk down that garden path, peer out that window, or sit on that terrace bench without really seeing, feeling, smelling, touching. Time has given us the chance to be at home at home.
Each day is a performance, no two exactly alike, and each one in its own way captivating. Our world may have contracted in so many ways for thee moment, but at the same time it’s overflowing with wonderment. No, we don’t have to wander off our little plot to be amazed at the best of life – changing cloud formations, patterns of light and shadow, wind in the willows, sounds in the night, the texture of a leaf, the complexity of a seed pod or flower, birds fluttering about the feeder, the fragrance of a late-blooming snakeroot. That’s contentment – being at peace where we are, knowing that in being right here, not in Chicago, Seattle, or Venice, we’re not missing anything that matters.
OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD -SEPT. 28, 2021
Time to wrap up this season, as I see fall in my eyes. That said, there is still lots of interest out there. The usual fall color, yes, but beyond that, consider Japanese anemone. (the white just glows in moonlight), monkshood, turtlehead, actaea ‘White Pearl’ (AKA cimicifuga and snakeroot) and solidago ‘Fireworks’ (yes, I know, It’s still a goldenrod, but what a display, and aptly named. Beyond floral display, look closely for leafy color changes in perennials as fall approaches. Some epimediums, hosta and ferns delight with burst – no, burst is too strong a word – perhaps I should say these plants delight us with infusions of subtle color. Really sweet. With floral finery at a low ebb, foliage can take center stage.
All summer long, roadside ditches hardly rate a second look – now, my, what a sight as native asters in white, purple and mauves burst forth – yes, here I can say burst – in clouds of splendor.
This is hardly the time of year to be thinking about pots, but a shipment of pots ordered last May from a supplier new to us has arrived (we were kind of expecting the delivery in a more timely fashion, but shipping what it is, I guess we should be thankful we didn’t have to shovel snow to accommodate their arrival). At any rate, we’re tickled with not only the classic lines (with names such as piecrust planter, scallop planter, lattice planter and dragon scale planter) of these terra cotta pots, but also that they’ve been treated with a finish approximating age. A pretty convincing finish at that. Come share our eagerness, even if you’re not in the market for pottery at the moment.
It’s not too late to tuck in a few perennials or two. We still have a nice selection both in pots and in the field that are ready to find new homes. Stop by Monday – Friday 8:00 -4:30.
How many more delightful weekends like the one just past do you think we’re due? Having spent untold hours in the garden – no letup – this summer, thinking we owed ourselves a treat, we spent Saturday on the town – visiting favored galleries, shops, (suitably masked of course) and parks. Didn’t feel the least guilty for playing hooky, but back to gardening chores on Sunday nonetheless.
The soil is super wet after frequent (well, more frequent than normal) rains lately, so didn’t want to muck around the garden too much. Still, we’re mad at persistent weeds. Extremely obnoxious has been sorrel. Needs to be gotten out by the root. We cut back some sedum that has suffered, divided a few alliums, that have encroached on the paths. Hydrangeas are at their showoff best just now. Cut a huge bouquet for the dinning room. Their varied colors and forms made for a dazzling display, one that will last until we tire of it.
The wind lately has preyed upon the locust tree above our back terrace. It’s brittle anyway, but gale – force breezes really loosen up twigs and branches. And then there’s our one remaining ash – a tree that we should have had cleaned up last winter when the tree man was on site. Looks like we’re letting the wind do the job.
The rain barrels are full, not much need for their contents any time soon and more rain predicted later this week. Always the way.
We’re high on a new viburnum, ‘Forest Rouge’. It’s a viburnum – that is not especially distinguished for most of the year. We planted a trio of them several years back in front of the dog kennel, which they’ve grown to screen nicely. They shine – and how- right about now when dark green, glossy foliage is trans- formed into a rich merlot with increasing cool temps. Clusters of creamy white berries are likewise made more interesting, turning reddish then purple. We vow to promote its use to all comers.
Hate to say it, but I felt the first twinge of winter one day last week. The day began with layers of clothes, topped by a winter jacket. Short sleeves soon prevailed, but for a brief moment there was winter in the air, and I don’t think it was my imagination. Sheepishly, I traced a finger across the car window to make sure it wasn’t frosty.
Well, a more wordy blog than usual, but that’s what I (you) get when I haven’t set pen to paper all summer.
Enjoy Minnesota at its best.
Scent, color, stature. This time of year, we can’t be referring to anything other than lilies. Oriental lilies. Hardy as nails (though not immune to visits by deer).
And a pure delight. Easy to tuck into the garden. Indeed, we’ve planted a broad selection of these beauties throughout the garden at home. Especially favored are spots near windows. If weather is favorable to fling open the windows, my, the entire first floor is awash in spicy fragrance. Choosing favorites is a fool’s errand as, really, they all rate a second look. Be that as it may, here’s a sampling of the nursery’s offerings, blooming right now or about to be.
Salmon Star is a perennial showstopper. Creamy white background suffused with the gentlest salmon. Dark spots, luscious.
Stargazer, of course, is well known for its soft, mouth-watering combo of pink, red, and white.
Touchstone is actually a cross between oriental and trumpet lilies, inheriting the best of both worlds. Deep plum purple, upward – facing flowers.
A dozen other varieties, round out our offerings this year. Words provide but a faint impression – why not come by and see and smell for yourself.
I see summer.
After a mixmaster of winter and spring, I see summer.
I see summer in the friendly, cotton candy clouds ambling by across a cozy blue sky, appearing for all the world to be lingering low enough to shake hands with.
I see summer in the wonderment of animal life – monarchs and hummingbirds performing their trademarked choreography before our eyes; raccoons trying (successfully more often than not, I regret to report) to outwit the fellow who fills the birdfeeders; fawns, two by two, getting fat off of phlox, daylilies and lilies in the gardens of you-know-who; and rambunctious squirrels who dig up our pepper plants as fast as we can secure them in the earth.
I see summer in the eyes of my spouse, eager to once again take up entertaining on the back terrace. We miss the connections. The hiatus has been long and sad.
I see summer at every turn, appearing right on cue.
So now we slowly, even tentatively, find ourselves back to the world we left behind so many months ago. It somehow seems strange to go mask less in stores, approach friends at a less than 6’ distance, and to offer a hand in greeting.
We can feel good about ourselves for making it through all this. Fifteen months ago, I wasn’t so sure we had it in us to stand up to a pandemic – who knew what to expect. But here we are – more resilient for the experience, not that we’d wish that on anyone, but I think we saw a confidence that ultimately strengthened our relationship, even as we saw those relationships adrift at times. It feels great to be back.
But what about that industrial – sized dispenser of hand sanitizer? A friend who I think knows about such things says we’re not out of the woods yet, so best to hold on to all those supplies.
Oh dear, June half gone and I’m feeling a hurry that has escaped me these last 15 months. No more the friends and events that have been missed. I’m slowly getting my feet back in the water – eating out (mostly at those splendid sidewalk venues) and seeing folks again, though shaking hands and hugging still seems awkward. Getting used to going maskless. Enjoying farmers markets, maybe even entertaining again. The house and garden have seemed so lonesome.
Time to open the windows to fresh air and light. See you around.