Philahortica & Yet Another Giveaway!!

The High Mowing Seeds giveaway is over and the seeds are on their way to the winner; but let’s have another giveaway! This time it’s a copy of my newest book, Grow Fruit Naturally. I’ll select randomly from all the comments offered by everyone who writes in as to what state they live in and what fruits they grow successfully and unsuccessfully, and what their favorite fruits are. The deadline for getting comments in will be Wednesday, April 3rd, at noon.


Philadelphia should not be called the “city of brotherly love.” No, I didn’t get mugged on a recent trip there. It’s just that more evident — to me, at least — is Philadelphia’s greenery. The city is oozing greenery, with over 10,000 acres of park land and hundreds of community gardens and small orchards right within city limits.
Weeping cherries, Bryn Mawr, PA
Philly’s more formal garden traditions harken back at least to the early 18th century. It was then, along the banks of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, that John Bartram, America’s first botanist, planted a garden from which notable American plants were distributed across the Atlantic. John traveled with his son William throughout the colonies studying and collecting plants, including Franklinia, a rare species that the father and son team came upon in the Altamaha River valley in Georgia. They brought seeds back to their nursery, trees of which are the source of all Franklinias in existence today. Franklinias have never been seen again in the wild since the Bartram’s last sighting.

Stewartia monophylla at the Barnes Foundation, PA

But let’s get back to today’s city of horticultural love (Philahortica?). Trees seem to like it there. I’ve come upon majestic specimens of sycamores and weeping cherries, Korean mountain ash from which drooped fiery, orange fruits, and stewartia trees with sculptural, copper-red trunks. Last week, the weather there was warm yet the ground seemed to be covered with broad, thin expanses of lingering snow. No, not snow! Closer inspection revealed sweeps of pale blue crocus flowers just unfolding. This self-seeding, deer-resistant crocus species — Crocus tommasinianus, with the appropriate common name of snow crocus — seemed to be coming up everywhere.
During my three days in Philahortica, the plant that really blew me away was sarcococca, also known as sweet box. And how sweet it is. Walking down a sidewalk, I all of a sudden started sniffing the air like a dog. No flowers were in sight, but my nose brought me closer to a thick, green groundcover with tiny, cream-colored flowers tucked into the leaf axils. The aggregate effect of all those tiny flowers was a sweet scent barreling down from the bank of plants to the portion of sidewalk I was approaching. I have to admit that I was not at all familiar with the plant, having learned my plants in Wisconsin where Sarcococca and other evergreens are not cold-hardy, at least back when I lived there.
Stewartia japonica
Already I’ve sited, in my mind, a home here for Sarcococca. This evergreen plant enjoys partial shade with moist, well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter, which are the same conditions enjoyed by many plants in the heath family (Ericaceae). I have a whole bed of heath family plants — including mountain laurel, rhododendron, lowbush blueberry, and lingonberry — along the east and north sides of my home. Sarcococca will look right at home sharing the bed with these plants when tucked right up to the brick wall of my house.
Among the species of Sarcococca, the one I’ll be seeking out in the coming weeks is the botanical variety humilis of S. Hookerana. Sarcocca is borderline cold-hardy in my relatively cold garden, and the variety humilis is a bit more cold-hardy than digyna, another botanical variety of the species. The brick wall should offer extra heat in winter and protection from drying winter sun and wind.
The path to the front door runs right along that bed and if everything goes as planned, I and others will be enjoying the sweet, sarcococcal fragrance as we walk along the path in two March’s hence.

Witchhazel, here at the farmden

Not that there’s any lack of fragrance around here this time of year. Outside, near that front walkway, witchhazel is in full bloom. Indoors, jasmine is coming to the end of its bloom period but the fragrant orchid, Ondontoglossum pulchellum is still going strong. Gardenia flower buds are fattening up next to my desk and, back outdoors, a whole bed of hyacinths are pushing up through the soil. 


  1. Posted March 29, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Hello Lee! I live in NW Missouri and grow peach, plum, apple, mulberry, crab apple, wild cherry, persimmon, gooseberry, strawberry, grapes and blackberries.

    Although I do have a wild cherry that was here when I purchased I have a terrible time growing pear or traditional cherry and have killed several.

    • Posted March 30, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      What was the problem with pear?

    • Posted March 31, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Not really sure. Purchased from Stark which is only about an hour away so should have been local hardy. I have killed 2 so far : ( I have taken it as a sign from God that maybe some things are just not meant to be. Neighbors have pears so it is a mystery….

      For cherries there are portions of this old farm that can be high in clay content and I have read that cherry and clay can be a problem.

  2. Posted March 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I garden near Maidson, WI. I love the Geraldi dwarf mulberry, delicious, easily grown, and convenient size! I’m losing patience with my honeyberries (Blue Moon and Blue Velvet). We will see if they produce more than two berries, and taste better than last year. They have a bitter skin like a blueberry, but the elongated shape makes it more pronounced.

  3. Posted March 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy your blog and books. I live in PA. I grow blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, red & black currants, fig tree, natal beach plums, hardy kiwi, grapes and apple trees. I am waiting on the apples, beach plums and hardy kiwi to produce fruit. Hopefully this year I will see some apples.

    Ron Ziegler

  4. Posted March 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m in mid-MN. Now firmly in zone 4, it was only a couple years ago we were right on the edge of 3. We just started seriously gardening and putting in fruit trees/bushes 3 years ago when we bought our property so it’s a little early to tell. So far our best producing fruit has been a Pixwell gooseberry. I had one of these growing up and absolutely loved it. I took cuttings of ours last fall and have half a dozen new shrubs doing very well under flourescent lights in the back hallway at the moment.

    What I absolutely love are apples, especially Haralsons, and we’ve planted plenty of various types. There are a couple old trees that came with the property that I rehabbed and last year, even with a crazy spring here, we had some good production on one of them. Don’t know what kind it is, but similar to Haralson actually.

    One thing that that I’m sure we’ll have difficulty growing, but I’m bound and determined to try, are Peaches. I planted a couple in my warmest, most protected area so we’ll give it a try. I’m also trying Apricots, but I’m sure they won’t do well here either. But a guy can dream…

    • Posted March 30, 2013 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      I’d recommend trying other gooseberry varieties — Poorman, Red Jacket, Hinomaki Yellow, Black Velvet, for instance — besides Pixwell. You might be pleasantly surprised.

    • Posted March 30, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      I’m with you… I have Hinnomaki Red, Invicta and Captivator coming this Spring in addition to the Pink from Miller Nursery I planted last year.

      We’ve planted over 70 grafted fruit trees/bushes in addition to many chokecherry, native plum, elderberry and crabapple in the past few years but funny as it sounds, I think our most successful crop will be the gooseberry. I just find them charming.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted March 29, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Love growing muskmelons or cantaloupe as we call them here in CA. My weather is not quite warm enough for them to be completely trouble free. I grow them on black plastic mulch with a covering until they flower and get pretty good results. I also have boysenberry bushes and just planted two red current bushes. This year I going to plant ground cherries that I started from seed but this is a first for me so I’m very excited. I’ve read raves about this fruit (?) but have never eaten any..hard to find in the stores.

  6. Posted March 29, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Atlanta is a tough place for fruit: it gets as cold as Boston, but as hot at the hottest places in Mexico.

    What won’t fruit or is marginal in ATL: Apples, tree cherries, Nanking cherries, currants of any kind, gooseberries, bunch grapes

    What does work: Peaches, Methley Plums, Jujubes, Figs, Pears, Persimmons of all kinds, Pineapple Guava, Jan/Joel Bush Cherries, Juneberries, Raspberries (in shade), Blackberries, Southern Highbush Blueberries, Muscadines

    New and Exciting/Under Review: Veinte Cohol Banana, Owari Satsuma on Flying Dragon (ATL was just “upgraded” last year from zone 7 to 8!)

  7. Posted March 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi! I’m from PA (close enough to you in NY that I hope to visit sometime). We had apple trees, grapes, blueberries and strawberries at our last home. It’s been 10 years since we moved, but we’re just this year planting fruit again – apple trees, elderberries and raspberries. My favorite fruit is whatever one happens to be in my mouth!

  8. Posted March 30, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    I live in Maryland, and I grow strawberries, raspberries and blueberries successfully. My blackberries haven’t been very successful due to pests (birds?). My favorite fruit is the blueberry. This year I’m also going to plant figs and Asian pear and persimmon trees.

  9. Posted March 30, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I live in NY, not far from you, just south of Pok. My fruits:
    * Kiwi Gold raspberries
    * Joy & Joel bush cherries – new to my garden last year, the good sized bushes set a lot of fruit but the chipmunks got all.
    * Lonicera Blue Moon & Blue Velvet – also new last year.
    * Currants – Blanka, Pink Champagne & Rovada also new last year. I ripped out a big Titania because it never set fruit, even though it bloomed, I have bees, and it was supposed to be self-fertile.
    * Hardy kiwis – ‘Annasnaja’ 14 years old they rarely set any fruit and require too much pruning.
    I’d like to grow blueberries but with a limestone ridge running through the yard the pH is too high (>7)
    My favorite: sweet cherries from a U-pick in Marlborough.

    • Posted April 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      You can grow in limestone if you excavate a hole about 2 feet deep and 4 to 6 feet wide and fill it with a mix of peat and sandy soil.

  10. Posted March 30, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    In the middle of Minnesota. My successful plants are raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, ligonberry, mulberries and blueberries. Currants and Gooseberries are tops. I cant seem to get my fig to get figs, it grows fine(its in a container) but no fruit. I guess I will have to keep trying.

    • Posted March 31, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Hey Scooter, what kind of mulberries are you growing? I’m in the St. Cloud area and I haven’t had success so far (though I have an Illinois Everbearing on order from Stark Bro).

  11. Posted March 30, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    We live in NW Montana 30 minutes from Glacier Nat’l Park. We grow raspberries (my favorite), strawberries, blueberries and some apple and cherry trees. Our trees are still young so don’t really get much fruit from them. Enjoy all the great information on your blog, thank you.

  12. Posted March 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    We live in Dresher, PA outside of Philadelphia, and enjoy Crandall black currants, blueberry bushes (Duke, Bluecrop, and Jersey). We are still waiting for out Paw Paw trees (Overlook, PA Golden, and Mango) and Turkish Fig tree to produce!

  13. Posted March 31, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I live in KS and grow blackberries, Northstar Cherry and Autumn gold raspberry successfully. I have had trouble in the past with heritage raspberry for some reason. Just haven’t found the right site I guess. I have a Turkey fig that hasn’t produced yet but my dog keeps eating the leaves! Your book sounds wonderful.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted March 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    We live in RI and grow apples, pears, and cherries. All seem to have problems, and we are organic. One or two years we had bushels of pears but much less every year. We’ve had some disease on are trees. We’ve about given up with fruit trees. Oh, and the strawberries, too, have had a problem with insects. It’s very humid here and mold and mildew is a problem. Fruit has been a challenge here, but our vegetables do well with attention and thought when needed. We can and freeze and use a root cellar. My perennials and shrubs do well enough too. It’s the fruit trees that are the major problem. Even the wild blueberries on our property don’t seem to be doing as well the past many years.

    • Posted April 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      The problem is that you’re growing the wrong fruit for your region, as I point out in my book GROW FRUIT NATURALLY. Try pawpaw, persimmon, cornelian cherry, Nanking cherry, medlar, and other fruits resistant to your pests.

  15. Posted March 31, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    In Northern Virginia and I currently have figs, blackberries, raspberries, highbush cranberries, elderberries, serviceberries, strawberries, and (if you count nuts) hazelnuts. Most are still young, since they went in last year, but I hope this year will be the beginning of some productivity.

  16. Posted March 31, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    South Central Pennsylvania, just North of the Mason Dixon Line, not far from Gettysburg.

    I’m not vigilant enough to do well with fruits, although the native blackberries, black raspberries, and naturalized wineberries do well enough on their own to give me a good enough crop for 15-20 1/2 pints of preserves each year.

    The one fruit I’m very successful with (not due to any effort on my part) is one that was on the property when I moved here in 1997, and I didn’t ID it until your article in Fine Gardening a few years back – Nanking Cherry, or Prunus tomentosa. I avoided eating the fruit until the FG article, although noticed the birds loved it. Now I eat bucketsful each year, share with others, and dig the bird-spread seedlings for donation to the local Master Gardener plant sale. First two years, there were few takers. Now that your fame has spread far and wide within the group, they’re gone before the public has a shot at them. Easiest fruit to grow – seems to thrive on neglect, and the birds can’t seem to keep up with the bounty, so I can share easily. Win Win.
    Blog posts here:

    and here:

  17. Posted March 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Yonkers, NY – 3 blocks from the Hudson River by the sewage treatment plant. We are protected. The only actual fruit I have had so far is from a flowering quince. I use that for some great jelly. I planted a Sungold apricot I got on sale last fall and now have to get a Moongold or some other pollinator. I also planted a few blackberry bushes last fall from the same sale and plan to put some blueberry bushes in this spring.

  18. Posted April 1, 2013 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Jackie
    Posted April 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Hello Lee,

    I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan and am growing strawberries, blueberries, Chicago Hardy Figs. Also citrus in containers – mandarin orange, Meiwa kumquat, Meyer lemon. I have just today received “Carmine Jewel” and “Crimson Passion” cherry bushes and will be planting raspberries and beach plums later this month. I would like to plant 2 grafted pawpaw trees, can you suggest cultivars? Thanks.

    • Posted April 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I like varieties from the PA Golden series as well as Zimmerman.

  20. Anonymous
    Posted April 3, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Hi Lee,

    I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan and grow strawberries, blueberries, Chicago Hardy figs and citrus in containers (Meiwa kumquat, Meyer lemon, and mandarin orange). I just received 2 cherry bushes (Carmine Jewel and Crimson Passion)and later in the month will plant raspberries. I would like to plant 2 grafted Pawpaw trees and am wondering if you could recommend cultivars? Thanks.

  21. Anonymous
    Posted April 3, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Hi Lee,
    I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan and grow strawberries, blueberries,Chicago Hardy fig, and citrus in containers. I have also just received 2 cherry bushes and will be planting raspberries later this month. I would like to plant grafted pawpaw trees and wonder if you could recommend cultivars? Thanks.

  22. Posted April 3, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I live in Minnesota and have raspberry canes in my yard that produce pretty well with very little attention. I have a small city lot and I’m considering adding blueberry bushes this year and maybe a fruit tree, but I’m not sure what kind.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags: b | blockquote | em | i | strike | strong