Garden.True.North is about gardening in Zone 3,
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
I had visions of a sea of blue after my daffodil’s foliage melted away. Earlier in the growing season I lost a row of Swiss Chard. I put bird netting around that raised bed and the chard is recovering. But my Baptisia looks like a lost cause. A small rabbit has been sighted near the garden. Maybe this bunny thought Baptisia is tasty since it is a member of the pea family. So much for “tolerates rabbits” advertised with this plant.
Left to right: Baptisia australis, what remains of my plant after the bunny, and new cultivar 'Solar Flare'.
My garden fence was built to deter deer from ravishing my vegetables. The fencing is not made to turn away a small bunny and there are gaps under the gates. After being on this property for 15 seasons, this is the first rabbit. The wolves, coyotes, fox, and eagles may be credited for the lack of rabbits; that is until now.
Baptisia australis, common name False Indigo, is a native plant to the eastern U.S. In addition to being advertised as tolerant of rabbits the plant is unappealing to deer, drought resistant, and tolerate of poor soils. I thought it perfect for my garden since it likes full sun to part shade (my garden receives about 6 hours per day) and would provide some color between the spring ephemerals and the summer bulbs that grow alongside my raised beds. At 3-4 feet tall, it would stand out, just what I wanted.
Baptisia australis was named Perennial of the Year in 2010 by the Perennial Plant Association. It seems appropriate because this plant is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, has multi-season interest, is tough, and is low maintenance. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder: “Over time, plants develop slowly expanding clumps with deep and extensive root systems, and should not be disturbed once established. Plants take on more of a shrubby appearance and tend to open up after bloom. Trimming or shearing foliage after bloom helps maintain rounded plant appearance and obviates a possible need for staking, but eliminates the developing seed pods which are so attractive.”
In addition to this native, there are now new cultivars that come in yellow, pink, violet-blue, and creamy vanilla. Baptisia attracts butterflies with its flowering for 3-4 weeks in June. Both its blooms and dried seed pods can be used in floral arrangements. The common name of False Indigo refers to the use of this plant by early Americans as a substitute, albeit an inferior one, for true indigo in making blue dyes. I originally thought that the Latin "australis" was odd for a native North American plant and found out that it means "southern". It can also refer to Australia.
I’m putting up netting around the Baptisia and hoping for the best. Maybe next year I’ll get some blooms? Or maybe it's time for another trip to the garden center?
The Columbine bed at Longwood Gardens.
Columbines have 60-70 species that are perennial but short-lived. They are excellent self-seeders but deadhead if you want your purchased hybrid plant to last longer. Of course, then you give up the self-seeding character of the plant.
Now I wonder if I want to find some hybrids and see how my volunteers would fare with a few more colors.
This blog post was also published on the North Country Master Gardener website.
If you are traveling in the Philadelphia area I highly recommend this list of gardens, all quite different. Seeing woodland spring ephemerals in different settings taught me a new appreciation for what I tend to take for granted here at home. Anytime during their long growing season these gardens will teach, display and provide pleasure to their visitors.
Morris Arboretum – As the name implies the arboretum is a teaching and research facility of the University of Pennsylvania. It is set on the historic grounds of the summer home of John and Lydia Morris. They have informative displays of trees, shrubs, and woodland perennials.
Longwood Gardens – One of many du Pont family gardens in the area. The gardens are spread about on 1,100 acres of highly manicured display gardens. We were there for six hours, more than enough time to see almost everything and spend time in their excellent garden shop. According to their website they raise 75 percent of the plants used in their displays onsite producing about 110,000 plants of 1,000 different varieties. Nearby is Kennett Square, a tidy small town with many retail shops and restaurants.
Mt. Cuba Center – The Center is set in the rolling hills of the Delaware Piedmont near Wilmington. The property was developed by Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. Mrs. Copeland is quoted in their intention for the property: “I want this to be a place where people will learn to appreciate our native plants and to see how these plants can enrich their lives so that they, in turn, will become conservators of our natural habitats.”. If you go, I recommend scheduling a tour by one of their very knowledgeable tour guides. If you can’t go to Mt. Cuba Center, you can still learn much by going to their website. I have bookmarked as one of my favorites the native plant finder.
Winterthur – The home of Henry Francis du Pont, the 1,000 acres near Wilmington, DE includes 60 acres naturalist gardens, a research library, shops, museum, and the mansion chock full of American textiles and furniture. The gardens are more in the background of Winterthur given all the other attractions of this property.
Chanticleer - This garden was the last we visited, and I think the best. Chanticleer is set on 47 acres of the former home of the Rosengarten family, members of the family still guide the foundation that manages the property. This unique property employs seven Horticulturists who are each responsible for an area of the grounds. Chanticleer advertises itself as a pleasure garden and definitely lives up to that name. We felt as if we were invited guests, the horticulturists and grounds staff were about the grounds ready to answer our questions.
What a treat to have visited these gardens, each one unique in its own way. And the Winnebago Master Gardener Volunteers are wonderful traveling companions.
The good news: My first blooms of the season, crocus! The bad news: I have lost my garlic! The good news: The garlic has been found and rhubarb is poking through. (Note to self: label the garlic rows in the fall.) Spring has started in spite of the remaining snow piles and ice still on the lake.
Images from The Exotic Garden (address: 62 Boulevard du Jardin Exotique, Monaco)
Lower left is the harbor, our ship the Viking Star is the bigger one on the far right (but not that much bigger than some of the private yachts).
On our Mediterranean cruise this March we were fortunate to stop at the Exotic Gardens of Monaco. It is amazing what you can do when (1) you are the king of a principality, (2) you are rich enough to employ several hundred gardeners, and (3) have several generations of family that contribute to the garden.
Although we did not see the entire garden, what we did see was impressive. These four acres are set on a rocky hillside and was opened in 1933 by Prince Albert I. Although dominated by succulents, there are also roses and I even found some spring bulbs. Only later did I pause to think about how that was possible in this temperate climate with not enough of a cold period for bulbs to bloom naturally. I would hazard a guess that they kept the bulbs in cold storage and planted them outside to enjoy this spring. Just like we would do to force bulbs, except on a larger scale. Again, money and labor can create a wonderful garden.
Most of all I love the address of this garden.
Wouldn’t you love to live on Boulevard du Jardin Exotique?
Inspiration at Bashaw Valley Farm and Greenhouse
"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien
I was reminded this winter of what it feels like to be at least a little lost in a new store. I wandered into my local quilt shop, River’s Edge Antique & Quilt Loft in Hayward with a pattern and a few pieces of fabric from my stash. My goal was to make a crib quilt for a new baby that will be joining our family this spring. Upon entering I see a few bolts of cloth but am disappointed with the limited selection. But Wait! The name of the shop should have clued me in that there was more and there certainly was upstairs. My stumbling about reminded me that we are beginners at some point and these specialized businesses that support our crafts and passions are there to help us.
My brother Charlie on the left, my sister Linda and me on the right. We moved before my two younger brothers could be pictured by this particular shrub.
The pictures above are just two of many snapshots taken by our Mom in front of the Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia). Every time I pass one in full bloom a flood of memories race through my mind. Our Bridal Wreath was the go-to backdrop for confirmation, graduation and just plain nice-day pictures. It is helpful that this shrub blooms when these events are happening.
In looking through old family photo albums I see each generation had a favorite shrub. Lilacs and arborvitae appear to be the winners for earlier times. Before we moved to the house with the Spirea, a lilac bush figured predominately in our outdoor posed pictures.
The old-fashioned Bridal Wreath Spirea (botanical name: Spiraea prunifolia) is a non-native in the Rose family. Reliably hardy to 30 below (zone 4), it grows best in full sun but will tolerate part shade as long as it gets 4-6 hours of daily sunshine. Leave it room to grow to its mature size of 4-8 feet tall and wide and the flowers will fill its arching branches. The flowers attract butterflies and pollinators in the spring.
No need to prune this shrub, but if you must, do so right after it is done blooming so it has enough time to set flower buds for next spring. According to Melinda Myers in her Gardening in Wisconsin, removing the flower tips as the blooms fade can improve next year's bloom. Renewal pruning of this suckering shrub can be done by removing one-third of the oldest stems to the ground.
I've planted a Golden Bridalwreath Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei 'Levgold') in my Zone 3 garden that gets about 4 hours of sunshine daily with success. It is rated a Zone 4 plant so the test will be this spring since we had 33 below temperatures this winter. I've got my fingers crossed on this one.
Do you have a favorite backdrop for your family photos? If not, maybe this is one you will consider planting.
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