Monday, November 14, 2011

Proud as a Peacock

Brilliant fall accent
Without a doubt, one of my favorite trees in the fall is the Japanese fullmoon maple cultivar Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium'.  The orange and crimson leaves glow, especially when lit by the sun.

Its common name is fernleaf maple which describes well the deeply cut and sharply toothed leaves.  In Japan, this tree is nicknamed 'Maiku-Jaku' which translates to 'Dancing Peacock'.

My tree started out as a container plant for my lower patio.  This was about five years ago.  I needed a special focal point while the vegetation in the surrounding beds filled in.  When winter approached that season, I thought the tree would fare better in the ground rather than in a exposed pot.   I transplanted it into a nearby bed with the intention of digging it up and replanting it back in the container the following spring.  Luckily for the tree, that never happened.  With more room for its roots, this beauty has grown to 11 feet so far (experts suggest it will top out at 12 feet, but I think mine may grow a bit taller).

Delicate fern-like leaves 
This past April, as its leaves were budding out,  I noticed from my window a few squirrels dancing around on the maple tree's branches.  A little spring fever I suspected.  But upon closer examination, I realized that the varmints weren't playing.  They were gorging on leaf buds.  I immediately chased them off and later sprayed the tree with a homemade red pepper spray.  They didn't come back, but I do think the squirrel pruning decreased this season's leaf count.

Overall, autumn foliage colors haven't been their best in my Hamptons garden this season.  However, my 'Dancing Peacock' has displayed "plumage" more brilliant this fall than any year I can remember.

Fallen leaves resemble colorful confetti 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making a Grand Entrance

Beautiful sidelights and transom
"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"

"Not Hamptons Garden blog. We've moved.  Find the full blog post on the beautiful entrances of Beacon Hill at the link below:

Making A Grand Entrance

See you there!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Let's Get Something Started

Japanese Stewartia dressed for fall
Seems like it's taking much longer for the leaves in and around my Hamptons garden to peak this year.  Autumn has been very wet and cool with little color.  I dream of sunny days when the garden and adjacent woodland burst with orange, yellow and red foliage.

Luckily, my Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia var. japonica) was on schedule.  Always one of the first trees in my garden to put on a colorful show,  some leaves turned a bronzed red and others a deep orange.

I read that orange and yellow pigments are always present in deciduous leaves but camouflaged by the green pigment of chlorophyll during the summer months.  When photosynthesis stops and the green chlorophyll disappears, the other colors are revealed.  Red pigments are made mostly in the fall and are the result of trapped glucose reacting to sunlight and cold temps.  Just thought I'd share.

This Stewartia was planted about five years ago to help enclose the front lawn and partially screen out the parking area.  It produces a beautiful flower in mid-summer that looks like a Camellia blossom (guess that's where it gets the pseudocamellia part of its name).  The blossoms don't last more than a day before dropping to the ground, but it does produce flowers in abundance for weeks.

Hopefully, this is just a prelude to the fall foliage show.  However, when regions nearby get tree-damaging snow in October,  I'm thankful to have leaves of any color on unscathed trees.

Fall foliage
Summer blooms

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.  As a child, my parents made sure Halloween was a special time. Mom crafted homemade costumes every year.  Dad helped us carve spooky faces in pumpkins.  And we plastered the downstairs windows with Hallmark cardboard ghosts and witches.

These days, I don't don a costume every year, but do still decorate my Hamptons house and garden.  This year,  I found this concrete-looking Jack-o'-lantern.  It's actually a terracotta shell covered with a stone/concrete plaster on the outer surfaces.  It has a wonderful aged appearance, looking like it has been sitting in my garden for years.  The inside terracotta walls produce an orange glow when illuminated by a candle.

Thought is was a perfect garden "statue" to ward off evil spirits (and maybe a few voles) on this All Hallow's Eve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Wheels!

I was thrilled when my new set of wheels arrived Tuesday afternoon.  It wasn't a new car, but a shiny-green lawn mower.  Received only 24 hours after ordering from,  my Steele Products battery-operated, self-propelled grass cutter was here to save the day.

My new "green" machine

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me start from the beginning and explain why I needed to buy a lawn mower this late in the season and with the intent to mow my own lawn.  As I mentioned earlier this summer, mowing is one of the few gardening projects I hire out.  But every spring, my "mow and blow" group arrives with a larger mower than the year before.  Clearly a way to get their job done with less work in less time.  This year's massive contraption could barely make the turns in some areas of my garden without tearing up turf.  I put up with this all season.

Last week, after several rainstorms, they came to mow while I was away.  When I returned, my lawn looked like the site after a monster tractor pull.  Huge tracks embedded deep into the grass.  To borrow a popular Popeye quote, "That's all I can stand, I can't stands no more!" Bye-bye lazy mowers.  Hello quiet, exhaust-free "green" machine.

The online description said it would take 12 hours to charge so I didn't expect instant gratification.  But, like a kid with a new toy,  I ripped the mower from its box and started to assemble without reading the instructions.  It was fairly easy.  As I was playing with the controls, I discovered that the battery had some juice.  Wow, now I could take it for a test run.  Before I knew it,  I had mown the whole front lawn and was headed to the back.  I finished the back, but the charge died before I could do the lawn surrounding the pool.  Here's hoping that after a full 12-hour charge I get a longer session next time.

Skeptical Charlie
Overall, it performed well, but the self-propel makes sharp turns and backing up a bit of work.  It cut fine, but didn't pick up debris as well as past gas mowers I have had.  (Steele Products should partner with Dyson to develop a stronger suctioning, ball-steering machine.)

Normally my dogs ignore me as I garden, but as I mowed today,  my younger Schnauzer frequently stood  in my pathway staring at me as if to say, "Man, what are you doing? You don't know how to mow?"

It was fun to mow my own lawn again, but I could tell it might get tiring after a few weeks, especially if I had other gardening projects to do as well.  But I think I can justify this impulse purchase.  Dividing the mower price by the weekly expense of the tractor gang,  I will need to mow only eight times (seven more) to compensate for the new machine's expense.  Or maybe I can hire myself out for a day and write the mower off as a business expense.  I'll call the accountant tomorrow after I mow the pool area.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Fall Flush

'Basye's Blueberry'
The cooler weather has reenergized my roses.  Before dormancy, they are reminding me of their beautiful colors and intoxicating scents that filled my garden all summer long.

I have a passion for roses, but my Hamptons garden has limited sun.  So wherever I can find a little sun, I try to plant at least one rose bush.  This past year, a large tree near the house died and was cut down.  I was sad about losing the tree, but happy to have the new sunny spot to add more roses.

When it comes to choosing rose cultivars, I tend to look for those with less formal blooms.  I feel this allows them to blend better into my natural planting style.  But sometimes I throw in a more formal bloomer if its color or scent seduces my addiction.

With a long winter ahead,  I'm so happy for this autumn rose retrospective.  Thanks for the memories!

'Joe Woodard'
'The Mayflower'
'New Dawn' on the backdoor arbor

Beautiful, but unknown, rambler mailed by mistake and now taking over 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Stars

Asters flanking dwarf fountain grasses
Nothing accents a fall garden like asters.  Performing a supporting role all summer with crisp, green vegetation, asters move to center stage in autumn when most other perennials have stopped blooming.

My favorite fall aster is Aster oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite'.  It has the most beautiful blue-purple daisy-like flowers that start blooming in early October and continue for many weeks.

I have two patches of 'Raydon's Favorite' planted in my garden.  The original collection edges the perennial garden adjacent to the pool. Since I spend little time by the pool in the fall, I added another grouping of these beauties in the garden across from the front door.

'Raydon's Favorite' will grow to about 36 inches left alone.  However, I prune twice during the summer to get shorter, bushier plants that don't need staking.  I prune the plants by 1/2 at the end of May and then again by 1/3 at the end of June.  Don't prune past July 4th or you may not get blooms that year.

Blooming across from the front door
This aster cultivar divides easily in the spring.  This past spring I split the current grouping by the pool into many divisions and spread them out to fill an expanded perennial bed.  I mixed them with summer-blooming perennials and dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln').  The fountain grass is now blooming along side the asters.

A simple arrangement
I was told by some local gardeners that asters are generally plagued with powdery mildew.  Fortunately, 'Raydon's Favorite' has been mildew-proof in my garden.

With all the rain here lately, I brought a few sprigs of 'Raydon's Favorite' indoors to admire.  I mixed them with a few stems of River oat grass (Chasmanthium latifolium) and Sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Little Henry') in a small Victorian vase.  A simple autumn arrangement.

Asters get their name from an ancient Greek work that means stars. Very fitting, not only for their star-shaped flowers, but also for their starring role in my autumn garden.
Star-shaped beauties

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pretty in Pink

More than a month after its first blooms, the Japanese anemone 'Robustissima' (Anemone tomentosa) is still going strong on this last summer day in my Hamptons garden.  With significant buds remaining, I should enjoy blooms for at least a few more weeks. Its soft pink flowers perfectly suit the quieter tone of the autumn garden.

While many of my flowering plants have ignored their customary bloom period this year, this Japanese anemone has performed exactly as planned, providing late season color near the house.

And long before its wiry flower stems began to rise up in August, this late-flowering perennial created a nice ground cover with crisp green foliage that resembles grape leaves.  Before it blooms, clusters of ball-shaped buds top the 38" to 48" stems,  delivering a beautifully exotic prelude.

Two-year-old grouping knitted together nicely

Japanese anemones like moist, somewhat rich soil in full to partial sun.  They can spread aggressively by underground roots once established so give them room or divide them regularly.  The tall stalks may need staking which I usually do with dead branches for a more natural-looking support.

Although blooming relatively at the same time, there are many Japanese anemone cultivars from which to choose.  From single petal blossoms, like 'Robustissima',  to semidouble flowers.  The color options range from white to deep pink.   And while I generally like more uncommon cultivar choices not easily found locally,  I chose large-potted 'Robustissima' at a local nursery one day needing a little instant gratification.

Speaking of shopping for anemones, let me provide you with the correct pronunciation to help prevent some of the confusion and embarrassment that I endured.  The latin pronunciation is  \ə-ˈne-mə-nē\  not  \ˈan-ə-mōn\ as I mistakenly requested all over the Hamptons.  Of course, if you go shopping locally for them now, they should be standing tall in bloom so you could also just point when asked what you're looking for.

Exotic buds provide a beautiful prelude

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who You Callin' a Weed?

Late summer lunch
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) created a spectacular show in my late summer garden this year.  This native perennial rises from the ground in late Spring and grows to six feet or taller by midsummer.  Starting in late July,  sizable pink blooms open on tall stalks creating a colorful wall of color behind the pool.  Although I originally planted Joe-Pye Weed for its blooms,  the privacy it provides around the pool (in and out of bloom) has become its most important attribute.

The plant's common name comes from the American Indian, Joe Pye, who used Eupatorium purpureum as an herbal remedy for typhus.

Ironically,  I learned about this native American perennial from European landscape designers Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury in their fantastic design book,  Designing with Plants.  Luckily,  I found my initial plants at a local Hamptons nursery.

I have three cultivars planted around the garden.  'Gateway' is my favorite with rich, rose-pink blossoms.   One season I added to these a lighter, but equally tall, cultivar mistakenly labeled 'Gateway'.   It now mingles well among its darker cousins by the pool.  I also have a shorter variety called 'Little Joe' planted near the car park.

Occasionally, I will find a stray Joe-Pye plant that has self-seeded in another garden bed.  If the color works, I'll leave it but prune it by nearly half in early June to reduce its height.  It will mature shorter and bloom about a week later.  I also use this pruning technique on the original groupings.  By pinching back the outer stalks, you get lower blooms in front of the taller stalks.

Joe-Pye Weed is easy to grow.  It likes moisture, especially when newly planted.  It will bloom in partial shade, but full sun ensures the tallest plants, fullest blooms and most erect stalks.  Those behind the pool are still standing tall after Hurricane Irene, providing tasty seeds for the finches.

While this perennial dies down to the ground each winter, I don't cut the stalks down until the Spring cleanup.   I read that since their stalks are hollow, cutting them too soon will allow too much water from winter rains and snow to accumulate in the stems, causing rot.

I'm thankful the Europeans saw past this plant's "weedy" American heritage.  I'm not sure what other native or imported perennial could have provided me with such a colorful show and screen.

Joe-Pye Weed makes a wonderful backdrop for tall grasses

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Irene Aftermath

Given the ominous forecasts, I expected my Hamptons garden to be seriously damaged.  Took a garden tour Saturday before dark, reminiscing about the stellar season; saddened that I may not get to enjoy the late summer/fall show.

But we were very lucky.  Hurricane Irene pushed high, but not severely damaging, winds into my neighborhood.  Surprisingly, we never lost power.  A drive around town reveled others that were not so lucky.  Many large trees were pushed down, falling onto houses and power lines.

The storm's effects on my home and garden were small in comparison.  Green leaves, small branches and twigs were strewn everywhere.  The wind split a major branch on a small redbud tree.  These are easily remedied.

Five full wheelbarrows of debris were carted out.  The outdoor furniture was put back into place.  I'm trying the advice from an online source suggesting that small stainless bolts be driven through the split redbud branch (like pins in a broken arm) to close the gap and help it mend.

I have also put some of the fallen oak branches to good use as natural-looking stakes for the tall anemones and daylilies still blooming.  "If you're given lemons, make lemonade."

Dead branches make great stakes
Wind-ravaged anemones back upright

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Poor Little Suzie

'Little Suzie' mingling with a Miscanthus
My favorite Rudbeckia cultivar is 'Little Suzie'.  Compared to  the popular 'Goldsturm' variety,  Suzie has smaller blooms and more delicate leaves.  Plant sources say it is also shorter, but mine grow to about 18 inches.

In my Hamptons garden, 'Little Suzie' starts blooming a little later than 'Goldsturm'.  The bloom period is also a bit longer.  From late July into mid-August,  its blossoms add bright golden color, like mini sunflowers,  refreshing the midsummer garden.

Unfortunately for 'Little Suzie',  I'm not her only admirer in my garden.  During the past few winters, voles nipped at her roots. And this summer,  a wild rabbit in residence has been chomping at her tasty stalks and blooms.  The vole damage is usually pretty fatal so I have been treating this perennial like an annual.  A few seedlings pop up each season, but additional plants are added each spring to get a substantial and abundant summer showing.

Clayton, the older Schnauzer, has been pretty good at chasing the rabbit away each morning.  I will follow his lead and try to chase away the voles this winter.

As an annual or perennial, I will always have a spot for 'Little Suzie' in my summer garden.

More delicate leaves than 'Goldsturm'
Big showing in early August

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Sandy Start

Thought you might like to see where it all started.  I came across some old photos recently.  These show the house its first summer 12 years ago.  Pardon the quality of theses older pics.  They're PD (pre-digital).

First season for the lawn and schnauzer Clayton

In my neck of the woods, it's VERY sandy.  After construction, I was left with a beach for a front yard.  I immediately started a lawn to keep the dust down.  Yards of compost were raked into the sand.  Bags of grass seed were scattered on top.  Sprinklers attached to hoses on timers kept things watered while I was in the city during the week.  The plantings and stonework were added slowly over the years.


The back was a bigger challenge.  I had dreamed of walking out my back doors onto a grassy yard. However, after construction, I was left with a woodland gorge.  The back doors were about seven feet above the ground.  Temporary stairs provided access.  Truckload after truckload of fill dirt was brought in to create the back you now see.  Then topsoil was layered on top.  I started with sod which didn't perform well after a season.  The sod was replaced with grass seed.  A few bluestone steps connected the house to the back lawn.  It wasn't many seasons before I tired of dewy grass dampening shoes each morning.  I reluctantly gave up some of my precious lawn for a dry patio.



The patio addition

I started out an impatient neophyte with grand plans.  But the process of making this garden has taught me horticulture, design, budgeting and patience along the way.  Year by year, I added plantings, stonework and structures, only hiring out for the heavy lifting or projects beyond my ability.

While I always think there much more to do, these pictures remind me that my Hamptons garden has come a long way.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too Darn Hot

Well the city temperature is well above 90 degrees today.  And the whole East Coast is expected to experience record highs.  It's times like these that I'm glad to be in the Hamptons.  Being closer to the ocean, the temperatures here are usually more moderate than in the city.  As I write this, the temperature in the Hamptons is only 76 degrees.  (Check out the Accuweather below for current temps.)

So for all my friends sweating out another day in the furnace called New York City,  here's a few photos.  I hope they will at least bring you cooling thoughts.

Wish you were here!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On the Outside Looking In

Weeding isn't my favorite garden chore.  I'd much rather plant, prune, even deadhead than weed.  So a few areas can get a bit messy before I motivate myself to evict the unwanted squatters.

Often I'll find a roaming perennial among the less desirable weeds.  However, I was very surprised to discover this Verbascum in full bloom outside the front planting bed.  This looks like an offspring to Verbascum 'Sixteen Candles' that had died out years ago.  There hasn't been any blooming Verbascum in years!  I guess the seeds had lain dormant all this time.

The original Sixteen Candles added a vertical, yellow accent to Monarda 'Raspbery Wine'.   It was a nice combination, but when it disappeared,  I decided not to continually replant such a short-lived perennial.  However, seeing these two together again has me rethinking this original decision.

However, I think junior is also letting me know it prefers to going it alone than competing in the perennial bed.   For me, he's provided a reason to postpone weeding next spring as I wait for his offspring to pop up.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Much Anticipated Arrival

Just a quick detour the the new home of Hamptons Garden and the blog post you're looking for. For more pictures and commentary, click on link below:

Hyperion Daylilies

Monday, July 18, 2011

A "Mess" of Beans

A little detour.  The post you're looking for is now located on the following link:

A "Mess" of Beans


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunflower Sunday

Oil painting by Robert Panitzsch (1943)
I love sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).  Their bold, yet simple blooms reflect the celebratory and carefree attitude of summer.

Having viewed many photographs of sunflower fields in Provence and famous paintings of sunflowers by artists such as Monet and Van Gogh, I just assumed sunflowers were indigenous to Europe.   I even have a vintage Danish painting of sunflowers in my home.  So I was surprised to learn recently that sunflowers originated in America.

American Indians first domesticated the wildflower into a  single headed plant, using it for flour, oil, dye and medicine.  Spanish explorers brought it to Europe around 1500.  Later it was heavily commercialized in Russia.  Russian seeds made their way back to America in the 19th century.

I don't grow them in my garden since cut sunflowers are a staple of the local farmers' markets starting in July.  On the back roads of the Hamptons, you often see fields of them growing, waiting to be picked for the weekend crowds.

Their season, like summer, is all too short.  When the flower buckets in the markets change from sunflowers to dahlias, you know fall is around the corner.

Fresh-picked flowers and vegetables

Helianthus Annuus fill a field

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sweet Fern, It's Actually Neither

This post has moved in its entirety to the following link:

Sweet Fern

More pics and some personal experiences with this cool native plant.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Late Bloomer

Bee enjoying newly-opened bloom
Planted eight years ago along the property perimeter for screening,  the Rosebay Rhododendrons (Rhododendron maximum) have gone pretty unnoticed in my Hamptons garden.  Each season they grew a bit,  but didn't bloom. However, about a week ago, they ALL started blooming. 

I have no clear explanations.  The cold winter seems to have reset the flowering clocks for a lot of my plants.  Some are blooming earlier, some are blooming later, and some, like the Rosebay Rhododendrons, are blooming for the first time.

Their summer buds and blooms are beautiful.  And I have always enjoyed their big-leaf evergreen vegetation. They do have an ugly side in winter.  Freezing weather makes their leaves curl to prevent desiccation.  Like a thermometer, the colder it gets, the more they droop. (That's when I'm happy they're along the perimeter.)

Exotic-looking leaves frame blooms

I'm happy that this late bloomer has decided to no longer take a secondary role in my garden.  Welcome to the party.