Archive for the ‘plants’ Category

bamBOO! happy halloween

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I apologize for that. And yet I’m not changing it. Oh well. So out front sits a fresh mound of loam — 6 yards of it…

fresh loam












It doesn’t look like much until you start shoveling it. Then you realize it’s never-ending. So why the soil? I finally got around to planting the Phyllostachys nigra ‘Hale’ black bamboo that’s been waiting for its permanent spot. Quite a project. The hole is somewhere between 2 and 3′ deep, so it required a LOT of soil to fill it…

bamboo planting 1




















This is the 80 mil bamboo barrier that should (hopefully) keep the roots from escaping…

bamboo planting 2




















Try dragging that 70 lb thing down the hill and tossing it into the pit. No, really. Go ahead…

bamboo planting 3












I dug a trench for the barrier a little deeper than the hole. Then David and I ran the sheet around the oval…

bamboo planting 4












Stainless steel clamps run up both sides of the overlapping barrier to ensure that the bamboo roots don’t sneak out…

bamboo planting 5




















Yes, there were nuts and bolts and power tools involved…

bamboo planting 6




















And now the Hale is happily in its new home below the retaining wall, where it should be safe from strong winter winds…

bamboo planting 7












Luckily, I got it in the ground right before the temperatures dropped below freezing this weekend. Nothing like the last minute. Now I’d better get outside and move the remaining 4 yards of dirt. Oy.

giganteus! oh my

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I’ve been known to stalk plants. This year, Miscanthus ‘Giganteus’ (Giant Chinese Silver Grass) has been my prey. I came across it last summer when I was stuffing my yard with other grasses — unfortunately, I only came across it online…

miscanthus giganteus photo by marcia sofonoff

miscanthus giganteus photo by marcia sofonoff















Wowza. Giganteus! More info here. You may have come across it while ogling Margaret Roach’s garden via A Way to Garden

miscanthus-giganteus-fall via

miscanthus-giganteus-fall via (best garden blog ever)


Gorgeous. But try to find it at a nursery. Impossible! Actually, that’s not exactly true. In July, I finally stumbled across it at Farmer’s Daughter in South Kingstown, RI, far toward the back in their display garden…

miscanthus giganteus at farmers daughter



















To look at, not to buy. But get a load of that stature! And I’m very impressed at how it stands up to the wind…

miscanthus giganteus vs. the wind












So after a little more research I found that you can easily pick it up on eBay (in season). That’s where I got mine this summer — cheapcheapcheap. Little known fact: apparently it’s been grown in Europe as a source of biofuel since the ’80s and it’s finally making its way stateside for the same purpose.

I really wanted to see this monster at work in a real-life garden — in person and not just online. So when I saw that Duncan Brine was opening his Hudson Valley garden to the public for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days schedule, I was psyched. We were sooooort of headed in that direction anyway last weekend for a visit to NYC. It was worth a jog to the north to see what he’s done with six acres.

This stand of giganteus greets you on the way in (click to biggify)…

brine garden giganteus hedge












So what secrets lie on the other side of that 12′ hedge?

brine garden giganteus on the other side












Twisting gravel paths and naturalistic plantings. I love the way the giant miscanthus contains this garden.

And how about a zinc bench ringed by giganteus? Cozy…

brine garden bench in giganteus












I can so make this work, even in our urban garden. My eBay plants are still mere spindly stalks at around 6′ or 7′. They’re eager to get into the ground before winter…

my giganteus




















Can’t say as I blame them. Maybe this week?

Thanks to the Brine Garden and its lovely host, Duncan, for encouraging my obsession. And for not making fun of me for my stalkerish tendencies.

urban jungle

Friday, October 7th, 2011

So I drove to New England Bamboo in Rockport, MA on Labor Day Weekend to pick up my newest garden addition: Phyllostachys nigra ‘Hale’ black bamboo. Three hours of driving. I was home by 9 am. That’s how much I had to have it.

Over the last few weeks I’ve debated a few different spots around the yard but have decided to put it here…

hale black bamboo... testing how it looks












Once it fills in, it should help screen the patio from the street. In the shot above (click to biggify if ya like), they’re still in the pot. But when the crew was here last, I had them dig a good-sized bamboo pit about 2+ feet deep for me…

the bamboo pit from above



















My bamboo barrier just arrived. It weighs more than 70 lbs. Between that and the yards of loam I’ll have to shovel, it sounds like I’ll be getting a workout soon.

followup: how’s that hillside?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

This is for you, Shiva, my dear!

MARCH 30, 2010

hillside: march 30, 2010 a disaster after historically heavy rains












APRIL 3, 2010

hillside: april 3, 2010 reshaped with new soil













APRIL 5, 2010

hillside: april 3, 2010 biodegradable erosion control added











APRIL 6, 2010

hillside: april 6, 2010 brand new planties












OCTOBER 4, 2011

hillside: october 4, 2011 first view












hillside: october 4, 2011 second view












hillside: october 4, 2011 third view/closeup of sweetfern




















Not completely filled in but looking fabulous. No more erosion issues. Yippee!

If you’re interested in the plant choices, check this out. FYI, we ended up putting the Cornus canadensis (creeping dogwood/bunchberry) at the top of the slope in the shade instead of on the slope in the sun.

how an arborist stakes a tree

Friday, August 5th, 2011

So, about those newly planted Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ (Yoshino Japanese Cedar). Not to worry — they look happy. But at nearly 10′ tall, they needed staking before the coming nor’easter blasts topple them this winter. Shouldn’t be an issue next year when their roots have spread some to give them more support.

When you want things done right, it pays to know people who know people. Shiva hooked me up with Tim Lucksinger, an arborist out of Newport, RI. Nice guy. Curiously, he’s never tried karaoke even though he has the ideal name for it.

So how does a professional stake a tree? Like this…

the trio all staked



















So it doesn’t seem too hard, honestly. All it took was some sturdy rope (or really super heavy-duty twine)…

all strung up




















A sturdy wooden stake, pounded into the ground at an angle pointing away from the tree so that the rope will hold with some tension. Obviously this man knows his knots…

the stakes



















And then the rope runs through a section of rubber hose that fits around the trunk of the tree about 2/3 of the way up. Hose is a smart choice because it won’t abrade the bark and hurt the tree like rope alone would…

hose from the front



















The hose is cut in the back to give it more flexibility…

hose from the back



















And that’s that. The stakes come out in about a year. Thanks, Tim!

the replacements

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Remember when we took that oak tree down a while back? Well, his special-order replacements finally arrived…

the yoshinos arrive



















Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ (Yoshino Japanese Cedar). Not native, from Asia obviously. They look like junipers in that shot, right? But they’re not. These are three fledglings and they’re typically bushy and cone-shaped when they start out. But as they add 3′ to 4′ feet a year, they loosen up so that you can see between the branches and become more irregular, like this…

cryptomeria japonica ‘yoshino’ adolescents



















Hard to believe that’s the same variety of tree but it is! That’s a grouping of three that I pass on one of my running routes.

I love that they naturally look like large bonsai. They’ll add introduce a small bit of Zen to our front yard, which will hopefully tie it to what’s going on out back. See how they’re only like 12′ to 15′ across? Perfect when you have power lines to content with. Plus I don’t really want to block my view of the city.

Here are two older Yoshinos that I pass on a different running route…

cryptomeria japonica ‘yoshino’ grownups



















They get stately as they age — and wicked tall. That doesn’t bother me. It will be a nice accompaniment to our scraggly oaks.

Now to finish getting them planted. Two in the ground now. One to go.


Many, many thanks to my gal Shiva for getting her grubby hands on the trees I wanted and then lugging them up here for me. You rawk, girlfriend.


the princess blooms!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Our new hardy Pink Princess lotus started to open yesterday morning…

hardy lotus first opens



















Today at dawn, it was full-on glorious (click to biggify and be impressed)…

hardy lotus from the side, 24 hours later











hardy lotus from the front


it’s officially pond!

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Late Friday afternoon it was official: we have achieved pond. Plumbing, a go. Pump and filter, chugging away. Water, cold as heck because we’ve had no sunshine. Ya think that would stop me from getting pond plants the very next day?

I made the trip here…

paradise water gardens sign




















to Whitman, MA on a recommendation. They told me they didn’t have many plants left this “late” in the season, that all the best waterlilies were snapped up in April.

tons o’ water plants












But they had tub after tub of fantastical things to choose from! So, of course, I did.

Here’s the little bit I’ve learned from reading about waterlilies in New England: the flowers last about a day; the tropicals have the best scent, most brilliant colors and the most abundant blooms until about November when you have to overwinter them indoors (or replace them yearly); the hardies are still pretty amazing to look at and some are fragrant. So this is what I got to start with.

A day-blooming tropical:

key largo tropical waterlily |

key largo tropical waterlily |













And a night-blooming tropical:

red flare waterlily |

red flare waterlily |













A really pretty hardy:

firecrest waterlily |

firecrest waterlily |













The hardy Pink Princess lotus I cannot find a photo of. Bumma.

I snagged a dwarf Egyptian papyrus:

dwarf egyptian papyrus |

dwarf egyptian papyrus |
















An umbrella palm papyrus I’ve had for years will go in the pond:

umbrella palm papyrus |

umbrella palm papyrus |
















I’ll be adding to this, I’m sure. Bix votes for cattails. When the chlorine dissipates in the pond we’ll also look into fish. Bix votes for frogs.

speaking of trees

Thursday, May 12th, 2011


When we moved in, the one Cornus florida (red Flowering dogwood tree) on the lot was in a sad, sad state. Its roots were exposed. It suffered from lack of water. And in the spring, it grunted forth a handful of blossoms that quickly fell off.

Hoping to save it, we tried everything we could think of: [X] covered the roots with the a few inches of screened loam and compost, [X] watered it when the weather got dry, [X] added a layer of straw over the top to reduce moisture loss, [X] pounded a fertilizer spike in the ground to feed it.

I’m happy to say that this spring the tree looks ecstatic for the first time in three years. Flowers galore! Maybe we did something right. Maybe.


Sunday bonsai bonus

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Yesterday I made it a mission to find bonsai wire. One of my threadleaf Japanese maples suffered an unfortunate indignity to a main branch this winter. It snapped clean off and now I need to train another branch in the right direction to take its place.

With the invaluable help of iPhone GPS, I ended up at Bonsai West in Littleton, MA. Why it’s West and not North I have no idea as it’s practically in New Hampster…


It’s a lovely way to spend a gray spring morning and well worth the trip. Their bonsai yard is ohmigodlookatthat…




There are pines a plenty…


And lots of larch…


Ginkos galore…


And wondrous weepers…


Not wots and wots of weepers but there was at weast one. And yes, I found my wire. Thank you, Bonsai West.