Good gardening is not religion. Balancing and rebalancing is what’s needed, not the constraints of dogma. You want to garden naturally? Dogma would dictate doing nothing, in which case you wouldn’t have a garden. You want to grow only native plants? Then forget about tomatoes, apples, and tulips. And are the plants you want to grow truly native on your “back forty,” or down the road where the soil is slightly wetter in summer?
Gooseberries and chickens are what turned my thoughts to the need for balance today. I grow over a dozen varieties of gooseberries, dessert gooseberries with flavors akin to those of grape, plum, and apricot. I also “grow” seven Bantam chickens; they provide decoration, insect control, eggs, and some degree of entertainment.
On the downside, chickens’ scratching in my garden beds in search of insects and seeds messes up what could be a very neat and orderly space.
Oriental poppies, now in bloom with large, floppy, flaming red blossoms, are worth ooh-ing and ah-ing about. Likewise for Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum), with small gray-green leaves and small white flowers, except that too few people know or grow this plant. Here, the two plants look especially congenial together with Snow in Summer hugging the ground at the feet of the poppies and spilling over the rock wall that supports the bed in which these plants grow.
No skill is needed to grow Snow in Summer, or to propagate it. Plant it and it will spread, rooting as it creeps but never with frightening speed.
Alas, the show from either plant is all too transient. Poppy foliage is soon to yellow and melt slowly back into the ground. And by the time you read this, blossoms of Snow in Summer will have tapered off and its leaves will have lost …
Come visit my farmden on June 21st between 12 pm and 4 pm as part of the Open Days program of the Garden Conservancy. Admission is $5, the proceeds of which go to the Garden Conservancy, whose “mission is to preserve America’s exceptional gardens for the education and enjoyment of the public.” For more information about the Conservancy, go to www.gardenconservancy.org; for more about the June 21st visit, go to
Some people contend that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I disagree, and especially this year. I’m acting on the belief that if more than three people mention the same thing to me, something is amiss. More than three people have commented on the beauty of their lawns this year, that is, the greenness of the grass on their side of the fence. And …
Connecting the drip irrigation to the spigot behind my compost pile today, my eyes fell on five nearby Meserve holly bushes. Which brought my thoughts back to last fall, when I realized that I’ve never seen berries on those shrubs.
Hollies are dioecious plants (“two houses”): some are male, others are female. Only the female plants bear the bright, red fruits that, along with spiny, shiny leaves, are so essential a decoration for the winter solstice. To bear fruits (which are ripened ovaries, the female flowers must be dusted with pollen from male flowers.
Last fall, I reasoned that the lack of berries could be that the plants were too young (no, I planted them over 15 years ago), that the plants were too shaded (if so, there would have been at least a few berries), that late frosts were killing the blossoms (unlikely every year), or that …