January 31, 2014

Four Years of Blogging

I started this blog four years ago today.

It has been a rewarding diversion, and it has brought me commenters and friends from all over the world.

When I started I was still a relatively new gardener, just beginning to realize I had something to show in pictures and something to share in observations. What fun it has been!

But after 490 posts, I'm ready to move on. When I visit a garden or walk in my own, I am constantly on alert for blog-worthy photos or thinking of what I could say about what I am seeing. I think it's time to just go out and enjoy.

It's time to sign off this blog.

I'll continue blogging on my journal, which is an online diary I have kept for these four years as well. It is just mundane garden tasks, weather reports, complaints, and lots of random ideas for the garden as I think of them. If you still want to see photos of my garden and what I'm doing in it, it's on one of the tabs at the top of this blog.

If you just found My Weeds Are Very Sorry, please visit the archives and read some old posts.

If you are one of my constant and loyal readers, I thank you so much --- you have been my audience and my outlet for four rich and rewarding years.

My weeds are still perpetually remorseful and they will always misbehave. But I'm ready to enjoy it more and write about it less.

January 26, 2014

January Mornings

One morning this winter the coyotes came to visit. It was a family, a mother and four pups. Jim wanted to get all five in a shot, but they wouldn't pose together. The pups tumbled and played and they all took turns stalking and hunting in the pines at the edge of our yard.

One morning this winter I got up early enough to see the sun rise over the tree line. Through the window I watched the frosted leaves of a Dawn viburnum, very aptly named, greet the sun.

One morning this winter the sun was already up when I opened the bedroom door.  The sun, seeking enlightenment, was examining the books on the bookshelf.

One morning I noticed that there will be flowers on the magnolia next spring. The fat fuzzy buds, oblivious to snow and polar vortex temperatures, promise it.

I'll be ready.

January 22, 2014


Plants that have rich mahogany tones always draw my attention. I like shades of deep cordovan, plummy wine, and tawny cognac.

I am obviously supposed to be living a different life, drinking expensive liqueurs and wearing fine leather accessories while sitting on luxe furniture.

I noticed this when I was going over the photographs Jim took on several garden visits this past summer. The shots I asked him to take were often of plants that had deep coloring.

Like this Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa" that we saw at Whiteflower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut (yes the same Whiteflower Farm nursery that sends out the glossy catalog). It was fall, and the red-wine blooming hydrangea was next to a golden amsonia hubrichtii and the combination was extravagantly rich.

I have Hydrangea 'Preziosa' in my garden, but it is small, has never bloomed, and is barely hanging on. I moved it, of course, and in the process I kind of divided it in half (which you really can't do with a woody shrub) and now I have two barely surviving hydrangeas. Will they ever look like this?

At Wave Hill Garden in the Bronx, New York City, a magnolia with leaves backed in velvety mahogany brown caught my attention. It is Magnolia grandiflora 'Bracken's Brown Beauty', and it is a beauty. It's the hardiest of the southern magnolias.

It's the congac-colored leather-looking underside of the leaves that gives it such a rich look.

Mukdenia rossi 'Crimson Fans' is a red tinged glossy ground cover. I saw this at Cornell Plantations in Ithaca, New York. I was immediately drawn to the richly tipped leaves. The leaves are quite large, the plant mounds over in cascading fans, and the painted edges of the foliage shine jewel-like.

I have several small mukdenias that I planted last year, but of course mine are puny and look like nothing so elegant yet. But those wine tipped fans intrigue me, and someday I will have them.

I grew red tinged clover in a pot last year, because I liked the soft dark splashes on its leaves. This is real clover, Trifolium repans, complete with little white pom pom blooms.

Even humble clover looks luxe dressed in a rich amaranthine.

January 18, 2014

Towering Nuisance

Eastern Cottonwood trees (Populus deltoides) grow all around us in areas that were disturbed by the builders.

They are fast growing, messy, weak wooded trees that do not live very long, but they grow to a huge size in a short time. Then they die, and start showering branches and debris all over.

In June the female trees blow white cotton fluff all over the neighborhood where it accumulates just like snow in corners of the patio and around plants in the garden.

Hundreds of little cottonwood seedlings must be weeded out of my gardens and out of my containers where they land and quickly sprout.

The meadow has little cottonwood saplings popping up all over.

When we moved into our new home almost 10 years ago, there was a cottonwood sapling on the back hill that was my height. It was just a five and a half foot thing, leaning over on the steep hillside.

I could easily have cut it down then by hand with my pruning saw, and I considered doing that many times, but I didn't do it.

I regret that now.

Last summer I looked up and the cottonwood had suddenly achieved an ominous presence. It towered over everything in my yard, and it had outgrown the maples and oaks near it on the hill.

It is still a young tree, narrow and upright. It will soon spread outward and dominate my entire garden even more.

As skinny as this cottonwood looks, it is too tall now for me to cut it down, and the trunk is too big for any hand saw.  I need to pay a tree removal service to come in this winter and take it down.

Why didn't I cut this down when I could have a few years ago?

The mother of this cottonwood sapling was a big old thing that stood at the top of the ridge, just above where the skinny one is growing. It was dead as a hammer when we moved in, and just stood there, dropping branches and self destructing when the wind blew.

When the trees around it leafed out and the grass greened up, the dead cottonwood just looked gloomy and it cast a pall over the whole scene. Old snags in the forest, or even in a woodsy garden, can be structural and interesting (and provide perching and rest for birds) but this cottonwood was too much looming deadwood at the top of the ridge.

A road runs along this ridge, and the dead tree was on town property at the edge of the road, so when it started dropping limbs on passing cars, the town came and took it down.

They left cut stumps by the roadside where they rotted all winter. One spring I managed to roll one onto its side, get it started rumbling down the hill and chased it to the bottom, where, on hands and knees, I rolled it over and over to a spot in my garden.

The stump was beautifully adorned with turkey tail fungus, which made it more a work of art than a functional side table in the gravel garden.

The turkey tails eventually dried out in the sun, and now I do use the cottonwood stump as a side table, so some good came of this big, messy, dead tree.

I don't know if I'll get anything useful when the young cottonwood sapling is cut down this winter. Maybe some slender logs to burn in the fire pit.

I wish I had acted earlier to remove the sapling before it suddenly became such a big nuisance towering over everything.


January 12, 2014

Queen Z

I have written about Zenobia pulverulenta before, but she is growing on me more and more each season.

It gets its botanical name and its common name, Dusty Zenobia, from the fact that the leaves are dusted with a silvery film.

The "Zenobia" part is horticultural fluff; that name came from a time when botanists named plants after Greek gods or random figures of antiquity. It was a fad for a while.

When this lovely little shrub, native to the southeastern US, was first named, Linnaeus put it into the andromeda family. There were hundreds of plants classified in the andromeda family -- so many look so similar -- and the class got unwieldy.

Later, in 1834, a Scots botanist, David Don, started taking apart the huge andromeda family of plants and creating new divisions, and he separated this one into its own class. Why he named it after an ancient queen in the mideast is a mystery.

Queen Zenobia was a third century queen of Syria, who staged a revolt against Rome and conquered Egypt and, well, you can read about her here. I'd rather get back to the horticultural queen Zenobia.

Here you can see the powdery gray blue coating, which is what the "pulverulenta" part of her name means: powdery:

New leaves emerge delicately tinged in red. Everything about this plant is refined, so I can see why a queenly label seemed appropriate. Although the real queen Zenobia was a rebel and a conqueror and not at all delicate in her dealings.

She holds her leaves in winter and looks great against snow. Some years the leaves turn a rich russet and stay through the winter, other years they remain green. I have always liked the unusual leaves close up, and the tiny white blueberry-bell blossoms in spring.

But this year I saw that the little flowers turn to silver berries, and I really like that. I don't know why, but I had not noticed that before, or maybe this is the first year it set fruit.

I'm also noticing that the whole plant shines from a distance, making a nice light contrast in a border that draws the eye.

I am seeing for the first time that it develops a graceful loose form which I like. This one is under a viburnum that I have limbed up, and a groundcover persicaria with pink wands weaves around and through it.

I have two other zenobias under a birch tree. Their woodsy look goes well under trees. In fall the blue  powdery cast is not as noticeable, and the plant glows with subtle copper tints.

Mine are all 'Woodlanders Blue', which has a lighter glaucus leaf color. The species is a medium green, not as dusty looking. I got mine from Woodlanders Garden, which introduced the blue-leaved cultivar. They are a mail order nursery in South Carolina that I like -- the plants from them are big and beautiful and well packaged.

(Be careful in searching for them -- it is Woodlanders dot net.  Woodlanders dot com is something else entirely.)

I am discovering new reasons to like Dusty Zenobia. It is growing on me each season, and I think of her as royalty in my humble garden. Queen Z.

James Golden also admires this plant and did a great post on growing zenobia in wet clay on his blog View From Federal Twist.


January 6, 2014

Bury My Heart

The winter weather has been wild in the upper US, with severe cold one day, and warm, wet fog the next. We haven't had as sharply bitter temperatures as further north, but I did wake up to minus 7 F (-21 C) degrees the other morning and it was cold.

In those temperatures the snow crunches and groans loudly when you walk or drive on it. It's that loud, complaining sound that only very frigid snow makes underfoot.

The snow from the latest storm was cold and dry but it stuck to the trees in a way that looks like whipped cream carefully swirled on the branches.

It looks so white and so creamy and so artfully dolloped on everything.

The big spruces have dots of cream on the tips of their branches, and the denser dwarf Alberta spruces are positively coated.

It kind of looks like the soft serve machine at Dairy Queen malfunctioned.

There were tracks all around. I wonder how the wildlife stays warm on nights when the temperatures are below zero.

All of this pretty ice cream is being washed away today in warm rain. Tomorrow we go back to very frigid weather. I can't keep up with the wild swings.

The new year has started not just with crazy weather, but with an unhappy development here. The heart shaped stone in my dry stacked wall has fallen out.

It was there on New Year's Eve. I know because our guests that night admired it and I told them all about building a stone wall this summer with no skill and sore knees.

On New Year's Day it was lying on the pavers. Just plopped out.

Then the snow came, and I had not yet picked it up or done anything with it, so my heart is now lying on the ground under the snow, freezing.

I had used stone glue to fix it upright in the wobbly wall, but the wild weather -- the freezing and thawing and refreezing -- used its frigid black arts to expel my stone heart and then bury it.

This is just too weird.

With the bitter weather and the oddly unsettling sight of that hole in the rock wall, it is a good time to stay inside. Which I may do for the rest of the winter.

January 2, 2014

Permissions and Wishes

Back in November, C.L. Fornari wrote a post on her blog Whole Life Gardening that made me smile. It's about persimmons and permission and mixing them up and the idea of a Permission Tree. Go read it now, and then you can come back here and I'll tell you why I loved it so. 

Did you read it?  Good. 

I enjoyed her post at first because I thought it really was about persimmon trees. 

I like to read about trees that I grow, and I have planted three persimmon trees in the meadow behind my house. They are Diospyros virginiana, a native tree that produces interesting orange fruits. My trees are still so little that all I can do is read about others and dream.
That lighted yellow tree in the center distance on the hillside is a young persimmon
that I brought home from Kentucky in my carryon luggage, stuffed under the airline seat.

I liked her post because when she pictured a possible Permission Tree, she thought of the real Wishing Tree at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 

I have seen that tree, festooned with the wishes of many children. Here it was the day we visited:

And I laughed reading her post because I too confused the words persimmon and permission. The brain is only so nimble and mine is aging.

But her idea of a Permission Tree captured my imagination. Couldn't we all use one?

I like how C.L. describes a wise old tree that would listen to us, counsel us, and dispense or withhold permission to do the things we are thinking about doing. How valuable that could be.

And of course the Permission Tree has to be a persimmon. 

Will mine ever be big enough to do the job?
"You want to do what?" 

December 27, 2013

Guests Are Expected

We are expecting guests to visit this winter, as they do every year. Here are a few that came last year. I hope they make a return visit -- we're ready for them!

The bobcat as seen through our dining room window.  The fresh kill was a rabbit. A very large one.

This wild cat, Lynx rufus, is supposed to be reclusive, hunting at dusk and dawn. But ours visits in the daytime, feeds at all hours, and is not bothered by being so near houses. The pictures are fuzzy because they were taken through the window, and Jim did zoom in. But the bobcat was no more than 15 or 20 feet away, in the tall grass at the edge of the yard.

A parade of turkeys. They are God's goofiest creatures. They're just dorky in a regal kind of way. They always march along the edge of the yard, half in the tall grass and half out in the open, daring anyone wild or human to mess with them.

The coyote does not visit very often, but we know they are around. The yipping and howls outside are eerie in the middle of a dark winter's night.

This picture was taken with the zoom; the coyote is not as willing as the bobcat to come into the yard, and prefers the half-woods behind our house. There is no mistaking the coyote for a dog -- he is big.

I thought all canines were exclusively meat eaters, but this coyote visits a nearby crabapple and eats the fallen fruit, leaping backwards each time he grabs one off the ground, as if he just killed it. We spent over an hour one afternoon watching him stalk fruit.

The red tailed hawk is a constant visitor in my garden, all year long.  We often hear the high pitched "screeeee" above, and look up to see it. Birdsong all over the yard goes suddenly quiet.

Some visitors are a little greedy, and too many come at once. But all are welcome.

The black bear might be by this winter. I went to an education class on black bears at our local library, and learned that around here they will awaken from hibernation at various times in winter and wander about, then return to hibernating.

I have not seen the one that cruises our area, but neighbors have called to say it was in our yard, or that they encountered one on the way to the mailbox. Some visitors are a little more intimidating than others.

Of course the white tailed deer herds are always here. I try to be open minded about them, and accept them as I do all the other guests, but they do so much damage to my plants that I really can't tolerate them in my garden.

They are the unwanted party guests who always show up, eat too much, and won't go home.

Everybody else is welcome to come and visit in small groups or singly.