Friday, February 13, 2009

A Year In The Garden, First Installment

Welcome to the launch of my blog, A Year In The Garden.

For the past ten years I have been designing and cultivating the display gardens here at my home in Seekonk, MA. They have served both as a resource for my clients and a personal, creative outlet. There have been many successes and a few failures. But without exception, I have relished the opportunity to explore new ideas and the chance to experiment with a wide variety of ornamental plants. In many ways my property is like a laboratory and much of the knowledge I have gathered here has made its way into lectures and designs for my clients.

In the coming weeks and months I hope to use this forum as a written and pictorial diary of my gardens here in Seekonk. I also plan to share design ideas, plant suggestions, horticultural tips, and a range of do’s and don’ts that might help you, the reader, avoid many of the mistakes that I commonly encounter when first visiting my client’s homes. My posts will be inspired by what is currently taking place in my garden so, if you live in the northeast, you will probably find them timely.

Here in Southern New England we have been blessed with snow cover since December. Sheltered from the road, the snow pack at my house has stayed fresh and white making this one of the prettiest winters that I can remember. In addition to its aesthetic value, the snow has been a wonderful insulator, protecting my plants from harsh winds, and severe drops in temperature. Now that it has started to warm a bit, I’m anxious to get outside. Yesterday, I started cutting down the grasses that I left standing last fall and the catmint (nepeta) that kept the leaves from blowing into the front garden. In the coming days, as the weather allows, I’ll begin trimming some of my evergreens, and cutting back the long stems on my smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ) and trumpet vine (Campsis radicans).

This time of year it’s fun to leaf through the many garden catalogs that continually fill my mailbox, but I have learned to exercise restraint. In general I never order anything from a catalog that I can buy from a local nursery. Mail order plants tend to be very small and hardly worth the money when compared to the stock one can purchase locally for the same price. After many disappointments, I’ve made it a rule to order only bulbs (tulips, daffodils, lilies etc) and tubers like dahlias. Though hope springs eternal and even I have been known to throw caution to the wind when a particularly tempting catalogue crosses my path. This year I ordered a few plants from Bluestone Perennials and I’ll be curious to see what arrives at my door.

If you do decide to order perennials or shrubs from a catalogue, I suggest you request a specific delivery date. There’s nothing more frustrating than having plants arrive when the ground is still frozen. I’m in a particularly cold spot and prefer that my hardy plants don’t arrive before the end of April. Dahlia tubers can’t be planted here before mid- May so I request a delivery accordingly. Most annuals and half-hardy perennials won’t put on much growth until the soil really warms up so there is no point in having them suffer through the cool nights of late Spring. There are of course some exceptions, but more on those another time…..