Monthly Archives: May 2012

June is, in my book, the real month of flowers, everything here in the Shire is coming into full bloom. My heart is in flight over the colors and fragrances, the roses this year are the best they have ever been and the fox glove are over the top. the Hosta is huge and the annual planting is ever on going. The iris is in their glory both bearded and Japanese,I have over the years collected many and they are a back bone to the garden at this time.

A visit to your local garden center at this time is a must. There is so much to choose from, however remember what you buy in bloom now, blooms now, so a visit to the nursery each month is important to help you keep your garden in bloom all season long. Besides as a gardener a weekly visit is a must. Be open to new ideas and plants and listen to your nursery men or women they know what works and what looks best. Enjoy the flowers of June there are many.

A thought; What we plant today, will brighten our tomorrows.

Memorial Day in the Shire is always busy. Planting and weeding is in its height and growth is in leaps and bounds, the hundreds of iris are starting to bloom, the poppies are in their glory everywhere in the garden. The Oak Grove is just full of color, the rhododendrons are in full color and stand at least ten foot tall or more, and the air is sweet with fern and flowers and the songs of the many birds. What a great way to celebrate the memories in life.

Walking around through the Shire I can’t help but think of the many people who have visited and that are no longer with us, their gifts over the years remain in the Shire and today walking by these gifts I take just a moment to reflect, Like the blue iris in the Blue and White border that once many years ago grew in the garden of my uncle Dick, who as a young man had a wonderful garden under and around an old apple tree. Then the old Victorian hitching post, a gift given to my great-grandfather from the Bowen Estate, ( The Pink House ) in Woodstock, Ct. for years of service as the estate gardener. Gramma’s peony’s and Mom’s graduation rose the very rose she wore to graduation. Then there is the frog fountain made for me for the frog pond from my sister many years ago, when she finished her years at ( RISD ) Rhode Island School of Design. There’s the wisteria my daughters gave me that blossomed for the first time in twenty years, this year and a smile comes, for you see they are all here close to me very day and I am filled with sadness of missing some of them and joy for the pride some give and the happiness for having so many memories.

The garden is full of old plants that have been handed down for generations from gardener to gardener to friend and neighbor all with wonderful stories and memories. That is the magic of a true garden. To all who have gone before, the garden is special, thanks to you. Happy Memorial Day! From the Garden Shire.

A thought; Give someone you know a memory of you.

I’m standing in the middle of my favorite nursery, my list in hand of just what pots, planters and bed will get what. I will tell you that although I do this for a living, I still get overwhelmed. I want some of everything I see, and I always buy more than I need. So – I tell you think about what your colors are first then the amount of light the planters or gardens will receive. Then set forth and concur.

The great annual hunt as I call it is on, like where is the Silvia black and blue that brings so many humming birds to the Shire or can I see the new yellow supertunia citrus petunias for the Column Garden and where are those new rose swirl Impatiens for the Fairy Garden.  I need angelonia in many shades for holes in the front border and some where the wax begonias are waiting for me to get there, coming my favorite’s.

Here at the Shire Garden the annuals are very important for they keep the balance of color throughout the growing season and can be used to enhance the perennial performance when they are in bloom, so annuals are very important to the garden. There are so many of them to choose from and I think it is important to visit you local nursery and just look at the colors and types, play around with the pots. Put them together see how the colors will work together to your eye. Make lists and go home and make a buying plan. Many times more than one nursery must be visited to get the right mix. I visit at least five, all for different kinds of plant product.

Annuals went out of style a few years ago mostly because the old varieties that need to be fed heavy and dead heading to keep them from going to seed thus keeping them in bloom, but today’s annuals are somewhat care free and produce tons of bloom. So go ahead plant lots of them around your perennials and other plants but plant then in groups of three or five of the same varieties and jump those group repeatedly about the garden this will give a pleasing balance to the eye as you look about the garden.

Go to the Garden page of this blog and see the front border of Acorn Cottage, this mix of perennials and annuals is a good example of the magical look and feeling it can produce. We will soon have a slide gallery showing the Shire in photos taken by my lovely wife Jan. So you too can see the magic of the Shire.

A thought; What we put to thought today, is the picture of our tomorrow.

A day in the Shire begins with the morning walk and a mandatory coffee in hand. I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like to open the door and look out to the garden, well something like Dorothy felt looking into munchkin land, birds singing the flowers glowing, well, welcome to the morning of the Shire!

Every morning is magical and I always look forward to what’s new in the garden, the birds are  awakening with an air-filled of song and the scent of the fern is everywhere, the colors are soft this morning as I notice the rhododendrons and Weigela’s are starting center stage in oak grove.  The hosta are victorious and as I take my last sip of coffee, I know work must begin, first its weeding the quite work so not to wake the sleepy head neighbors.

Today its the blue and white border. Weeding, bed prep with fertilizer and compost and planting, it has become a special spot because of my Dad, he loved blue and white’s together and also his gift of the bird bath in the center of the border makes it his in a way, so I give this garden to , Dad.

I have chosen for the urns that are on pedestals, white scaevola and the new Proven winners sky blue petunias, and in the bed white Impatiens and sky blue petunias with green and white caladiums. The border has deep blue hydrangea and white bleeding hearts and hay fern as the under cover, it is a very French place and my father would feel very at home here. Always try to find way to make your garden special in some way, for this will keep you in it for a life time. Life is full of thing you have to do, but the garden is always there for you, take time to smell the flowers, they give so much in life too!

A thought: If ever a moment was to be, always take time to smell the flowers.

A gift from your young children, so kindly picked out with a knowing of what you love is a true gift of love. Some twenty years ago my two daughters Abigail and Alexsandra decided they wanted me to have a wisteria for father’s day, for the garden. Their mother took them to one of my favorite nursery’s to pick one out, it was to be a surprise. They picked out one full of bloom in the standard form, meaning it will stand on its own, no trellis needed, like a tree. They where so excited to give it to me, I remember how they rushed me out to the garden  to hear what I would say.

I love them so! My garden is full of memories of the girls. The wisteria was a wonderful addition to the Shire and that year it was beautiful. The following year it didn’t bloom and for nineteen more years, no bloom it was during their teen year and although I had no wisteria flowers my hair was graying nicely.

This year for the first time in twenty years it is covered in bloom like a great fountain of purple and my heart lifts in great joy as I inhale their sweet scent filled with the memory of two little blond girls how so lovingly gave their dad a gift of love. Thank – you my little ones, your gift just arrived alone with our first grandson! And the magic of the Shire continues.

Wisteria is a genus of about ten species of twine woody, deciduous climbers from the far east and USA. Members of the pea family they are vigorous growers and regular pruning is required to keep bloom abundant. Funny plant that for what ever reason will scantily bloom for years because of transplanting or having been grown from seed what ever the reason  they just stop. They like acid soil with good humus that has good drainage. Needing very little fertilizer. However this last year I decided to give my acid lovers some lime and all I can say is WHO! what a difference a little lime can make.

My favorites are; Wisteria frutescens, native to the US with deep purple short bloom but prolific, a new addition to the Shire this season.

Wisteria sinensis, aka ( my daurghter’s gift ) ” Caroline standard ” With its long strands of purple pea like flowers with the sweetest of fragrance.

So please if space allows and it always does if you’re a true gardener, add a wisteria and let the romance of life into your garden.

A thought: A gift from the heart, is joy and continues to give in time.

When walking through the fairy garden to the white and blue border I stopped for a moment to smell the french lilacs that are in full bloom.  The memories I have with that fragrance are special. I grew up in an old Victorian home and every May the large hedge rows of lilacs would fill the air and house with the most wonderful fresh sweet scent of lilac. Mom would pick large bouquets for the house and send them with me to gramma’s, she loved all kinds of flowers and would say they where her favorite, but then she said that about all the flower I would bring.

Here at the Shire our soil run a little to acidic so lime is added to give good bloom and boy do we get bloom! So I think it’s  time for more lilacs.I then remembered two friends of mine just north in Truro who have the most magical garden, and they just planted the new boomerang a reblooming lilac, I will plant some in the Shire and think of them every time they are in bloom.

Lilac, ( syringa ) should be dead headed after bloom, and in acid soil lime must be applied, a genus of about twenty species of deciduous shrubs and small trees from SE Europe to E Asia, and was first cultivated by the French. FYI. So lime your lilacs and they will bloom for years to come, however every three years cut out some older growth to spur on new growth.

So I’m off to the nursery for lilacs, God help me! I have no idea what other thing I will find, I think I’ll take the small car this time.

A thought: The sweet things in life are worth the memories.

Once again the spring season ritual of moving the wintered plants from the house to their preferred locations out in the garden has begun. It is a job I always look forward to because we regain more moving room in the house and will change the weekly routine of watering. I try to pick a time frame of over cast days so that the plant have time to adjust to the brighter light, that could burn their foliage. Always slowly bring your wintered plant to a shaded area for two or three days so they can adjust.

I have a prized Bay standard topiary, ( Laurus nobilis ) that I purchased twenty years ago and is one of my prized plants to which I have many of. It’s garden location is just outside of the kitchen door where it is company to five other planted pots filled with our favorite cooking herbs, like rosemary, parsley, tarragon, dill and chives to name just a few. They are here so that the cook doesn’t have to go out to the more formal herb garden leaving a pot to burn.

The bay with its smooth leathery leaves where use not only in cooking, but was often throughout history fashioned into head wreaths and used to crown the heads of victors. So you can see why the bay is important to the Shire Garden!

For the last four years A pair of Cardinals have made their nest in this Bay Tree and raised their young. So from mid May to June we seldom use the kitchen door. They have started the nest this week and with great joy here, we are blesses once again with the Cardinal presence here at the Shire.

A thought: A safe home is a good place to return too.

Here throughout the Shire the ferns thrive, we have about twenty types and all are doing quite well. With the last two days of rain the fern fiddle heads are up and the elf like magic returns to the garden.

Ferns are one of the most prehistoric plants, having been around for a mere 220 million years or more, so that tells you something about how easy it should be to grow them. It is said that when the fiddles show their heads no more frost to come.

I’m going to refer to my ferns as the ancient one’s and plan to add a fern walk to the Shire. On the north side of Acorn cottage, which happens to be the name of our home that is in the Shire. In this space is a wood walk way covered by a pergola that runs along the cottages northern wall which leads you to a gate with an acorn shaped window cut in it, which takes you to the pool terraces. Here I plan to hang three large mixed moss and wire hanging baskets of ferns between the columns and along the walk I plan to add about 10 different types of  ferns  with 5 or 6 types of mosses, I will plant in drifts to give nice impact. There will be those that run and some that clump creating a woodland feel and will plant some tropical house ferns in clay pot and place them in open areas for a more lush feeling. A small stone uncovered well will be made and used as a water feature.  And for a little whim  an elf house will be made, that I will light from within, how magical is that!

Fern Walk will be planted with tall varieties like, Dryopteris which are woodland types and come in many sizes. My favorite is Dryopteris – clintoniana ( Clinton’s wood fern ) now how funny is that! Others like the hay scented fern, Dennstaedtia punctilobula, that likes to run, and log fern or Dryopteris celsa, that will get to a whooping height of 48 in.. Miniature ferns and painted ferns that are of many wonderful grays reds and purple tones and golden ferns to bring a touch of sun to this northern walk.

To learn more about these ancient ones go to and American Fern Society at and enjoy.

Most people will walk in areas where ferns grow and never notice how many different types there are, so on your next walk make it a fern walk and try to see how many different ferns you can find.

Here at the Shire we will enjoy our strolls thru Fern Walk each morning as the dew filled air is scented with fern as we brush by and will look forward to a cool spot to relax in, from the heat of a long day.

So add ferns to your life as a reminder that the little things of life will go a long way in the big picture of time.

A thought: Endurance will last the test of time.

This morning while taking my wet May Day walk of the garden I was stopped in my tracks by the fragrance of the May viburnum in full bloom on the side path through firefly knoll that leads into oak grove, the shrub glowed in the early morning light and the soft rain heightened the fragrance, what a great gift from the Shire for May Day. Looking further to bottom it all out the ground below was covered in blue and white violets and their fragrance also filled the air around me. This will stay with me for a long time to come, what a wonderful May Day, with the much-needed rain and all.

I think my today’s favorite plant is the viburnum. They are a Genus of 150 or more species of evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous shrubs, most found in the northern hemisphere. Requiring very little care. Here are three of my favorites;

Viburnum nudum ” Winterthur ” the foliage turns a bright red in the autumn and is covered with purple/blue fruit. How striking is that, what a show.

Viburnum ” Chesapeake ” is a semi-evergreen with waxy deep green leaves. Flower in the spring ,most times in May. The buds start out as clusters of deep pink and open to white mounds of highly fragrant flowers, something like small brides bouquets, aka, my show stopper.

Viburnum – plicatum f. tomentosum, this later spring bloomer I love because of the long rows of white lace caps blooms that open along the branches. I often think of it as a fountain of white, and in the evening light it gives its best show.

So you see every garden should have at least one or two, if for no other reason than  ” why not ” its May that crazy month of May!

A thought: Plant for more than color, fill your life with sweet smells and your soul will remember.