Friday, November 30, 2012

Cool and Interesting Garden-Related Gift Ideas

Every year the season comes around and we have to think of new and interesting gift ideas for friends and family.  I learned many years ago by giving my wife the same gift on consecutive years that not putting any thought into a gift can lead to dire consequences.  Following is a list of ideas for the person who loves the world of plants and likes to put a little time into the garden.

I receive nothing from these recommendations other than helping connect friends and clients with my world of gardens, plants and horticulture.

If there is something here YOU like, pass it on to your designated gift giver.

Publications - Some great books packed with knowledge.

The Avant Gardener - For years this was a paper-only newsletter published out of a couple's apartment in New York City.  Recently, Derek Fell has taken over  publication of the ultimate monthly newsletter covering the broad topic of gardening and plants.  A must read for those who want to be in the know!  $28 for one year and $48 for two years of a digital newsletter.

Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs by Michael Dirr - People in the business call this and his other publications the bibles of woody plants.  Filled with pictures and descriptions of most any tree or shrub you might consider in your garden.  His Manual of Woody Landscape Plants is the botanical final word on woody plants.  If you need to know the definitions of polypetalous, hippocrepiform and fimbriate then this 1,200 page book or CD set is for you.

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust - While this book might be relatively inexpensive, it may portend some significant financial investments in perennials by the recipient.  This book will provides great ideas to help you understand how to better care for your perennial gardens.  She also has an excellent book called The Well-Designed Mixed Garden that covers designing with woody and herbaceous plants.

Memberships and Societies - Two great local institutions.

Arnold Arboretum - Even if you just get here once a year, the $50 family membership gives you two great publications, invitations to events, free plants, discounts at local nurseries, and you are supporting one of the finest arboretums in the world that is part of Harvard University.

New England Wildflower Society - Again, even if you only go once out to Garden in the Woods in Framingham you get a great publication, discounts and other great benefits.  Access to Garden in the Woods is a great gift for any plant-lover.  It is stunning in the Spring.

Plants - A sampling of cool, specialty, mail-order nurseries.

You can go and order some plants or get some gift certificates.  A gift certificate of Roses or Peonies shows some incredible thought ;-)

Bluestone Perennials - This Ohio nursery has been around for a long time and they always have a great selection of interesting perennials.

Swan Island Dahlia
Plant Delights Nursery - This North Carolina Nursery always has some surprising and hard to find plants.  Probably one of the finest specialty growers and propagators in the country.

Swan Island Dahlias - Want some summer color but don't want to buy the same old Dahlias from the local garden center.  This is THE Dahlia place.  Outrageous grower out in Oregon!

Roses Unlimited - This South Carolina grower has just about any rose you might want and they are shipped in containers not bare-root.

Hidden Springs Flower Farm - This Minnesota nursery specializes in who doesn't love peonies.  Be the first in your neighborhood to have some of the newer yellow herbaceous Peonies.

Garden Tools - A couple of not-so-ordinary tool retailers.

Short-Handled Spade and Shovel
Hida Tool and Hardware Company - A Berkeley, California seller of Japanese tools.  A very cool small company with some amazing items, including my favorite garden tool, the Hori Hori.

Garrett Wade - A specialty tool and equipment retailer.  They have a little of that Hammacher Schlemmer thing going, but they have some very useful items for the garden and workshop.  If you spend a lot of your time on your knees working around plants, this short handled spade and shovel are pretty cool. The spade is great for dividing plants.

Lee Valley Tools - Another specialty tool supplier that has all sorts of items.  A gardener will have a blast shopping here with a nice gift certificate.

Garden Art - Two local creators of art for the garden.

Madeline Lord - I wrote a piece for this blog on Madeline a few months ago, Art Resurrected from Junk.  She is a wonderful artist and could do just about anything for you, especially with regard to immortalizing your children's art.

Whitmore Boogaerts - Whitmore is a friend down in Dartmouth, MA, who has been creating kinetic sculptures for years.  His work is whimsical and eye-catching.  I have been trying to get together with him to do a piece on his studio and work, hopefully this winter.

Give a gift that will truly be valued and give joy for years.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lots of Spring Flowering Bulbs Still Available...

When I am in the mood to be honest with myself, I accept that I am a procrastinator.  That is only one of my many character flaws, but it is the one that often rewards me for my behavior, and thus makes it hard to remove.

If you, like me, procrastinated on buying bulbs this fall, then you are now being rewarded with big discounts and quite a large inventory of bulbs still remaining at some of the best suppliers at the end of November.

I covered bulbs in two previous posts this fall, and many of my favorites are still available:
Spring Bulbs Part 1
Spring Bulbs Part 2

Bulbs can be planted until the ground freezes.  The only difference with bulbs planted late is that they may not be as big as those planted earlier that have had a chance to set some roots.  But... we don't know what will happen with the weather and when the ground will freeze.

Check out these sites and your will be amazed what $50 or $100 can buy for spring color.

$100 spent at VanEngelen could provide you with up to 750 bulbs (100 Chionodoxa, 200 Scilla, 200 Crocus, 200 Snowdrops and 50 Daffodils) that will give you flowers from the melting snow until late May, and with most of these being smaller bulbs they can all be planted in a few hours.

Brent and Becky's (This link takes you right to the availability list)

Sailboat Daffodil
This is a great supplier of excellent quality bulbs.  They are a little more expensive than some others but worth it, and at 50% off it  just doesn't matter.

They are 50% off all inventory and they  have lots of bulbs still available.  Following is a brief summary of what I saw and some favorites.

Allium, Camassia, Chionodoxa (100 forbesii Pink Giant for $16), Fritillaria, Hyacinthoides, Rock Iris, Leucojum, Muscari (100 armeniacum for $11), Pushkinia and Scilla

Narcissus (Daffodils) - Fruit Cup, Merlin, Mt Hood, Pistacio, Sailboat, Yellow Cheerfulness among lots of others.

Van Engelen (This link takes you right to the availability list)

This is my go to supplier and they are now having a 40% off sale on all inventory.  They often are one of the least expensive and with these discounts you can't help yourself but buy.

Flower Record Daffodil

Lillies (Asiatic, Oriental, Species and OrienPet), Allium, Chionodoxa (100 forbesii Pink Giant for $11),  Tommy Crocus (100 for $8), Galanthus (100 Snowdrops for $24), Rock Iris, Muscari, Scilla (100 Spring Beauty for $10), Flower Record Daffodil and lots of Tulips.

Forget about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this is where you will get the biggest bang for your buck, and you will appreciate it for years to come.

Monday, November 5, 2012

BFFs for Fall Color, Part Deux

Here is my second installment of favorite trees for fall color.  As I said in my first post, BFFs for Fall Color in New England, to make the list the trees had to have more than just fall color as an asset.

Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia psuedocamellia)

My all-time favorite tree, see my previous post, A Tree Love Affair, with a detailed summary of its traits and landscape uses.  This tree has it all in form, flower, bark, and leaf color.  It is also interesting during every season of the year, even in how it carries snow in the winter.  In fall its leaves turn amazingly bright yellow-orange, orange and red colors, some of the most electric in the landscape.

Every garden, no matter how small, would benefit from having a Stewartia.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

I have a love/hate relationship with this tree.  On one hand is one of the most beautiful flowering trees in the spring with pinkish/magenta flowers right on the stems and branches and this wonderful yellow fall color.  It is a smaller understory tree with wonderful heart-shaped leaves.  BUT... Its nickname in the trade is Deadbud as they have a tendency to not do much and die or suffer from dieback on its branches.  This is a tragedy if it is in a position of prominence in the garden, but if you remember that it is a native understory tree and use it as such, it will perform very nicely indeed.  The key seems to be not to give it too much love or rich soil.  Ignore it a little.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)

This is one of our most beautiful native trees and one of the most underutilized.  They are very slow to grow and can be a little finicky to establish, which means sometimes buying smaller specimens that take more time to mature.  However, the mature tree tends to be tall and columnar with very cool flowers in mid-summer that look like the flowers on the andromeda shrub.  It is in the Ericaceae family and closely related to Andromeda, Rhododendron, Azalea and Mountain Laurel.  The flowers persist on the tree and after the frost the leaves slowly change to orange and red.  It can differ by year and tree, but the colors are absolutely brilliant.  This tree, close to downtown Winchester,  that I have watched over the years, is absolutely stunning this year.  Most of the leaves are the bright orange-red and it seems to light up the surrounding area.

Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)

This is my second favorite tree, if only it had a flower it would be my absolute favorite.  A beautiful rich cinnamon-brown bark that peels off every year, right up to the smaller branches.  It has a tri-foliate leaf(three leaflets) and the leaflets are small and tri-lobed. The leaves come out a little late in the spring, but they are an electric green, that turn a darker green during the summer, that forms such a wonderful contrast with the brown bark.  Then, in fall, the leaves turn an unbelievable orange-red towards the end of the leaf season.  My trees haven't even started to show color yet, these came from a local park.  A medium sized tree that is very slow growing and can be made to fit just about any situation.

Little-Leaf Linden (Tilia cordata)

This is a great medium-large shade tree that is best utilized away from the house, terrace, deck or driveway. See my post, Summer Fragrance Surprise:  The Little Leaf Linden, along with the great summer fragrance, it is a late-to-color tree with a soft yellow, heart-shaped leaf.  If only I had a 100-acre property to have all of these favorites and a bunch of Lindens to provide fragrance and beautiful fall color.

It will just have to remain a dream for now.

Fernleaf Full-Moon Maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium')

For a different specimen Maple, consider the Full-Moon Maples or Acer japonicum.  This one is Aconitifolium, as the leaves are reminiscent of the perennial Aconitum.  This is a small, spreading tree with these very large deeply-lobed leaves.  In early spring the tree is covered with maroon-red flowers (you usually don't notice most maple flowers) and then these big floppy leaves come out.  Late in the leaf season, the tree turns all shades of orange to red.  This is another favorite that is well worth the space by the terrace or window.

Such a beautifully complex leaf.