NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


A Gardening Journal

The Best Season Ever: Standards of 'Cinderella' Crabapple

Snow is typical in Winter here, but its timing, frequency, amount, and duration can vary. February is usually the snowiest month, with March a close second.


How well plants tolerate snow varies as much as the plants themselves. In the picture below, lower things (dwarf box here) are simply buried. Not interesting. At the back, the white diagonal cross-hatching is the Belgian fence of beeches. Good, indeed.

Malus Cinderella 020516 320

At the front is a trio of standards whose rigid branches are erect and branchy enough to function like hands reaching skyward: perfect to catch, hold, and display heavy snow—and with style and seeming pleasure.


These are standards of dwarf crabapple and, amazingly, nurseries don't mention how good they look after each blizzard. What with Spring flowers (white) as well as colorful fruit (yellow) in Fall, it's easy to be distracted. 

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Golden Chain Tree

Laburnum x watereri Vossii bud close up 013116 320

The Spring flowers of Laburnum are so spectacular they overshadow the tree's performance the rest of the year. In Winter, olive green stems are tipped with silvery buds. Stems in the background are tipped with a single bud, but the stem in the foreground has five. Does each mature to a raceme of flowers, or will some produce vegetative growth instead?


With Magnolia buds, you know ahead of time. Those that will mature to flowers are noticeably larger than those that are vegetative. Laburnum buds don't seem to be differentiated, so there's only one way to find out: I'll tie twine around this stem so I can locate it this Spring.


Meanwhile, midwinter is another peak in this tree's yearly cycle: It's training time. I'm covering one side and the top of a pergola with Laburnum, but the tree is nothing if not versatile. 

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The Best Season Ever: Weeping Pea Shrub in February, then May

Caragana arborescens Walker 020616 320

One of the best looks in a Winter garden is during and following a blizzard—at least for the plants that are able to wear a mantle of snow with style. The strong, rigid branches of weeping peashrub are particularly attractive then, because they weep stiffly downward and are evenly distributed around the trunk: No matter how heavy the load, it stays centered and stable.


The look is muscular, claw-like, and impervious to any stress of cold or wind, or the weight of heavy snow or thick ice. That's how tough and durable this tree actually is. All the more surprising, then, is how frilly and flouncy it will appear after the foliage emerges in Spring.

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Doing Gardening, Doing Good, Doing Well

At a dinner in Boston last week, a colleague joked that he is always on the lookout for new ways of fundraising for his main cause, his church. “What about indulgences?" he quipped. "Surely, Episcopalian ones would be worth a lot.” 


My main cause is a not-for-profit land trust I board-chair. You have yours, too. Who among us doesn’t? This is the privilege, responsibility—and joy—we all share: being able to help change something for the better.


When I need to think things over from a new angle, I often do so literally: I go out into the garden and—with the ground usually frozen this time of year—climb ladders to prune hedges, pollard trees, rework espaliers, groom pergola canopies, and manicure topiary. Today was for pruning the hedge of American holly. 

Ilex opaca Tilia cordata Winter Orange looking west 012816 320

When my eyes and hands are ten to twenty feet above ground, I see everything from a higher elevation. Today, I discovered a new answer to my friend's questions.

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