Archive for the ‘My Gardens’ Category

The past two days have been on and off thunderstorms bringing much needed rain that washed everything clean and perked up the gardens. I walked around the yard just now and here is what is looking good……


Some of my propagation trays that currently have many Primula, Arisaema, Arum, and other assorted goodies.



I just discovered this mystery Arum/Arisaema. I didn’t plant it here and I as yet don’t have any idea what it is. If anyone knows please let me know in the comments. It’s really nice but it’s growing up through a small Hosta and I’ll need to move it at some point.



Not the clearest photo but I do love this Acanthus mollis. It came with me when I moved to Vermont from Massachusetts and it never fails to make me smile when it blooms. The leaves are also wonderful!



Another friend that moved here with me seven years ago. Magnolia macrophylla is a beauty! I bought this from Ellen Hornig when her nursery Seneca Hill Perennials was still open. It’s now about 8 or 9 feet tall. It has never bloomed but with leaves as large as these I don’t mind. (too much) It’s plants on the stream edge so it never goes dry and seems very happy, only dying back slightly in winter, which may be why it doesn’t bloom. But I have seen a lovely mature speimen at the gardens of Cady’s Falls Nursery about an hour and a half north of here!



I love my Sempervivum and so wish I had more sunny garden space to add lots more of them.



A Papaver somniferum that has self-seeded into this garden. I think I will now always have them since I don’t always cut the seed heads off in time. And why would I? When I can have lovely flowers like this every year for no effort on my part what-so-ever!!




Aralia ‘Sun King’ is a beautiful spot of sunshine in a shady garden. If it got just a bit more sun it would be 10 times brighter, but it’s a beauty just as it is.





In the seed pots I am so happy to see how well these Podophyllum hexandrum are doing! I collected the seed for these from my plant and now I’ll have a few more to spread around.



My Epiphyllum of unknown parentage is in bloom and it’s gorgeous!! I got a cutting of it a couple of years ago from a neighbor here and it has done so well even in my fairly shady house and garden.



More seedling trays with loads of Primula of different species. I think these are from seed I collected at Kris Fenderson’s gardens in New Hampshire last year and they are P. bulleesiana in apricot, pink and yellow. Next year they should bloom and hopefully I’ll have lots of plants to share.



One of my annual planters on the the deck with a little owl I bought last spring in Georgia while visiting my daughter.



A favorite plant!! Dienanthe caerulea…Also purchased at Cady’s Falls. it’s a Hydrangea relative and is so hardy and beautiful!! I need to figure the best way to propagate it.





Another houseplant. Anthurium crystalinum. It has huge leaves with a crystal dusted appearance. I first saw it at the NYBG years ago and ordered them in to sell when I worked at Ward’s Nursery in Gt. Barrington, MA. It’s an easy plant to grow but it does need a high humidity to its best, so I mist it a lot during the winter.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd for a parting shot…the rainbow after yesterdays thunder storm. There was a huge crack of thunder and it started to hail all while the sun was still shining! Next came this rainbow over the lake! I love it here!



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A quick reminder to all compulsive collectors of seeds……keep on doing it and now is the time!! (Am I really just talking to myself here?)


The Primula sieboldii are doing a great job producing fat seed pods this year.


So right now I have been checking on the Primula seed production and it’s looking pretty good. The polyanthus aren’t pulling their weight but I haven’t checked on all the plants yet.



This P. polyanthus is showing a lovely and fat seed pod! But it’s the only one on the whole plant.

The P. kisoana ‘Alba’ is actually setting seed this year. With the cool and moist spring we’ve had this plant has grown quite a bit more than in past years.




P. kisoana ‘Alba’ with some nice seed pods too.


And of course the P. japonica have set copious amounts of seed as they always do. I planted some new P. bulleesiana this year and I’m not expecting much seed from them, but you never know.


The P. japonica doing what they do along the stream.


For those who didn’t know, I’m the seed exchange manager for the American Primrose Society, and I highly recommend joining so you can take part in the seed exchange every winter. Most of the seed you have seen in these photos and from other plants not yet setting seed will be donated to APS and other exchanges.

Please take some time to harvest your seed from any of your plants, they will be cheerfully accepted and grown by many other enthusiastic gardeners around the world.

Find out more about the APS seed exchange here.

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Today seemed like a good day to tend the Primula auricula bed by weeding, feeding and cleaning. The above photo shows the bed after I got everything all cleaned up. the plants are in full to just past full bloom. As you can see this end is getting too much shade from a large hemlock hedge, so I’ll be moving them out to the other end soon so they’ll get more sun. Right now the sunnier end is full of Primula sieboldii, Helleborus and other assorted Primula.

What follows is a sampling of the auricula that are in bloom now and what I hope to be able to increase enough of to have some to sell at future plant sales and enter in primrose shows. Most of them aren’t named…they mostly came from Susan Schnare of New Hampshire who developed a sensitivity to them and now gets a bad rash whenever she handles them too much. I sure hope that doesn’t happen to me!!



The next photo shows an interesting growth in the center. It looks like it was trying to form more petals but couldn’t quite get there. I really like the fleshy-pink color.


Next is a really pretty plum purple with great farina on the center white ring and a yellow raised crown around the tube. But too bad it’s a pin-eyed plant and not a thrum. Show quality plants must have the anthers showing at the tube and not the pistil as in this one.


This next one is the softest pink. Susan got the seed from Leslie of Pop’s Plants in the UK and so she named it ‘Leslie’s Pink’. I love how the central eye is kind of star-shaped and it’s also a good increaser of offsets, so I should have a number of these to offer in the future.


These next few photos show an assortment of plants all in need of cleaning up of the old leaves that are now starting to soften, yellow and rot. They must be removed so that the crown of the plant doesn’t get infected with the mold and start to also rot away.




Here is what I’m talking about……all those browned bits must be cleaned away. The dead leaves are easy to remove by just gently pulling downward on them.


And here is a nice clean plant. Look at all those offsets!! I could dig this plant up and gently divide it up into many smaller plants, pot them up and hopefully overwinter them for next year’s plant sales. Which I will do, but not today. That will be saved for a future post where I’ll show how to do it.


Next comes the feeding…I use Espoma brand bulbtone granular fertilizer because it’s mostly organic and has a good portion of natural phosphorus for good root growth in addition to trace minerals and other good things. I use it on all of my flower beds. Sprinkle it around each plant and lightly work it in with a cultivator.


Here is an offset raring to go! Look at those roots just ready to bury themselves into the soil. This is when the plants are sending out lots of fresh new roots and so it’s a good time to take offsets to increase your collection and have extras to share with friends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASharing plants with fellow gardeners is one of the joys of gardening! I dug quite a few plants today as I will be spending tuesday helping a friend dig up her Iris beds that has become something she doesn’t want to take on anymore. A couple of other people will be there and so I’m bringing plants to share and I’m sure I’ll be going home with lots of new ones! Gardeners are great that way!

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Seed that donated or bought in for the exchange.

Seed that was donated or bought in for the exchange.

The time has come to get busy sorting and packeting seed for the American Primrose Society seed exchange which I have been the manager of for the past three years. The seed has been ordered from a number of good companies and donations have all arrived from very generous members who have taken the time to collect, clean, label and send their precious seed to me so it can be distributed to members of the society all over the world!

During the short and cold days of winter I have lots of free time between the growing seasons to spend a few hours a week on this important and valuable task which is a great resource for folks to obtain seed of so many species of Primula that you can’t find anywhere else!




P. sieboldii comes in so many different forms and colors.


P. polyanthus Gold Laced are very coveted plants that wins many ribbons at the shows when grown to exacting standards.


P. polyanthus Garnet Cowichan grown from seed from Barnhaven Primroses of France with the best seed available and the APS seed exchange offers many of them!


The rare and prized P. kisoana ‘Alba’ grows and spreads by stolons just under the soil surface and loves a nice moist and shady spot. Here it growing along the edge of the stream that runs through my property.


P. kisoana the sister of the previous white form. This one spreads much faster and creates a lovely groundcover fairly quickly.


There is seed of the Barnhaven Double Primroses on this years APS seed list which you will find here. Not every seed will become a double form but if any turn out as nice as this one it’s all worth it! Friend and fellow Primula nut, Arlene Perkins gave a piece of this plant to me a few years ago which she named ‘Agnes’ for a good friend of hers.


And of course there will be seed for many different P. auricula! I grew this one a few years ago from APS seed and it has always performed well for me.

Primula are really so easy from seed that more people should be growing them. There are many species that are very hardy and will survive winters up to at least US zone 4 without any protection! I will be testing that statement this winter as I never got around to covering my flats of seedlings and potted plants this fall. Right now they’re covered with a good layer of fresh snow, so I’m hoping that will stay around long enough to keep them well insulated against any deep freezes we are sure to get and have already gotten this fall!


Trays and trays of plants and seed pots waiting for a good layer of snow because I was too lazy to give them a warm fleece blanket and layers of tarps.


One of the coldframes full of P. auricula, cyclamen and other treasures.


One of my propagation beds full of P. auricula, Hellebores, P. sieboldii and others. These will winter just fine without protection and have grown so well here in partial shade.

Almost all Primula seed can be sown either in late fall or through the winter on top of moistened potting mix, covered with a thin layer of chicken grit and then placed outside to experience all the weather winter will throw at them with germination in the spring as the temps warm up. Easy as that! Only a few should be sown indoors and kept under lights or in a sunny window or if you’re lucky enough…a greenhouse.
I sow so many seeds through the winter that I order through APS or NARGS that I am kept very busy during this ‘down time’ until the nursery opens in April.

Spring is such a wonderful time for the gardener and seed sower…so much anticipation and expectation! Every morning is spent patrolling the gardens and nursery for signs of growth and when those first green shoots appear from something more unusual and exotic that was sown during the depths of winter, the feeling is fantastic!

Here are a few parting photos of Primula just to get you to take a look at the APS seed list and start dreaming about all the possibilities!


P.japonica seeds around and comes in so many different colors.


P. vulgaris


P. vulgaris ‘Belarina Series Nectarine’


P. vulgaris double form


P. auricula cross from Susan Schnare.

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I was having a sort of blue day earlier when my camera battery died and I couldn’t find the charger or my other camera…..I think Steve has borrowed it. Very frustrating. So I walked around the gardens anyway looking at what was in bloom, and don’t you know it was mainly blue flowers! My garden & I were in sync. Although there weren’t many of them they were so very welcome indeed!

This fantastic plant is lighting up the front border!

This fantastic plant is lighting up the front border!

Gentiana x macaulayi ‘Kingfisher’ purchased a few years ago at Cady’s Falls Nursery in Morrisville, VT. There are more flowers on than ever and it has been in bloom for a few weeks already. This extended fall has been so great! Cady’s Falls is the nursery that all of us at Rocky Dale Gardens look forward to visiting every year. They grow most their plants on site from seed, cuttings, grafting, etc. And the selection can’t be beat!


Primula ‘Belarina Cobalt’ has sent up a surprise…and it is most welcome indeed! I am hoping it will be full of buds in the spring so I can dig it up for the spring primrose show at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens! I sent for this last spring from Sequim Rare Plants in Sequim, WA. I also ordered a few Primula auricula from them and they sent the biggest most beautiful plants. I highly recommend them.


Here we have another Gentian in the very small rock garden on the west side of the cabin. It bloomed in July and was the most glorious ever. I have moved this plant around so many times trying to find just the right spot for it and now I think I have. It has got a long tongue-twisting name…Gentiana septemfida var. lagodechiana…try saying that three time fast!IMG_3073

And lastly here is my lovely Aconitum x cammarum ‘Bicolor’. This photo doesn’t do it justice. It was huge and full of flowers while draping itself over an Azalea along the stream garden. this one also has never had so many flowers. I think the spring & early summer rains were so beneficial to the gardens along with the cooler temps all summer.

So after the garden stroll and a new knitting project getting cast on I’m feeling much less blue and quite a bit more jazzed about how well the gardens did this year. Time to start planning where to add a few more blue beauties.

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It’s fall, and that means many Cyclamen start blooming or sending up their beautifully patterned leaves! I have become somewhat obsessed with growing Cyclamen either from seed or purchasing them from a few good growers. In the past few weeks they are all showing some sort of new leafy growth or popping up their delicate looking flowers. I have read many times that most ‘hardy’ Cyclamen won’t grow here, but I can tell you they grow just fine here in zone 4-5 Vermont!

The following have all been grown outside in my gardens for at least one year. Some are from seed I obtained through the seed-ex of the North American Rock Garden Society, the American Primrose Society or from John Lonsdale and Plant Delights Nursery.

IMG_3374 IMG_3378 IMG_3375 IMG_3382 IMG_3386 IMG_3390 IMG_3381


Give them a well drained soil with a little bit of sun and they are happy! Plant the corms about 1″ deep and cover with a gritty soil mix so the corm stays dry over winter. They are glorious almost all year sending up fabulous new leaves late summer & fall. C. hederifolium bloom now, while the C. coum blooms in early spring. The all silvered leaf plant above is C. purpurescens which blooms in mid-summer.

Most will self sow when happy and you can see in the second to last photo that C. coum is very happy! I have seedlings coming up all over that bed!

There are also a few non-hardy types for the sunny windowsill. While the common C. persicum can be found almost everywhere now you should give a few of the rarer ones a try. Most need to be started from seed which can be found on many of the specialist plant society seed exchanges or purchased from a few specialty growers such as Arrowhead Alpines you can see they even use a cyclamen leaf in the title of the nursery!

Here are a few of the plants I have started from seed or bought in already potted. The first is C. graecum a lovely thing I got from John Lonsdale with fantastic leaves. The second is the same but one I grew from seed. The third is C. rohfsianum that I picked up at a chapter meeting of NARGS a couple of years ago grown by a friend who says his has over 75 flowers on it this year! Mine hasn’t flowered for the past two years!! Don’t know what I’m doing wrong here but the leaves are lovely to look at anyway. The last is a C. pseudibericum also from John. It has the one flower on it this year and will be sending up beautifully marked leaves very soon. I have them all in a sunny east facing window. During the summer they are pretty much in a dormant state outside with no watering except what nature gives them. I repot them every 2 years or so and topdress them with a pretty gravel mix.

IMG_3369 IMG_3370 IMG_3396 IMG_3399

Please gives these beauties a try. They are so rewarding!

Thanks for stopping by…..please leave me a comment and let me know about your adventures with the fabulous Cyclamen!

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While working in the front garden today I thought it might be a good idea to start giving a little history behind some of them. While the gardens here are really only about 6 years old the cottage has been here for over 40!

My husbands family built the cabin as a vacation home in 1968 and now Steve & I live here full time. It’s right on a lovely lake in west-central Vermont with a hardiness zone of about 4-5. So I can winter many plants very well…usually. We are under large pines, hemlocks and spruce trees with a nice stream running right through. Mostly the stream is nice except for when it overflows as it has done a few times since I’ve been here, as you can see from the photo below……this happened earlier this summer.


But mostly it’s great. I can plant so many moisture-loving plants along its banks such as all the Primula I could ever want! The Primula Japonica are really spreading and seeding in quite a bit creating a beautiful late spring show! The Primula kisoana are also spreading well into lush patches of large felty leaves and with the brightest magenta flowers in the spring.


Here it is with a nice Japanese Painted Fern in the front garden. This garden began as a narrow strip along the foundation just full of Pachysandra japonica and a couple of boring Hollies of some sort. That all came out and was gradually replaced with loads of compost which the soil so badly needed. I started planting a few Epimediums, Hosta and of course Primula right away. This garden gets only afternoon sun so the plant selection had to be able to endure a few hours of bright, hot sun. The soil dries out pretty quickly because of the large Pines nearby so I am adding compost and organic mulch pretty continually. But most of the plants here are really thriving!


This photo was taken today while I was finishing the edging, composting & mulching. Every year when I edge I come out another 6-10 inches so this garden is gradually getting quite large. You can see how the plants towards the front are still pretty small as they are the newest planted, with the ones further back have been in a few years now. The large dark green plant at the center with the longish leaves is a Helleborus foetidus ‘Sienna’ that I grew from seed. The leaves are so dark green and the plant is so big and beautiful I don’t mind that the flowers never really make it through the winter. The tree towards the other end is a Stewartia pseudocamellia a lovely small, flowering tree with smallish white flowers in June that resemble a Camellia. It also has exfoliating bark that adds interest to the winter garden.

I have been adding lots of Hepatica to this garden along the front edges, some of them I picked up at the huge plant sale in Portland, Oregon last spring called Hortlandia. It was at the Expo center where the APS National Show was also held. I came home from that with so many plants I had to ship 2 boxes full through the mail! There are also a few Trillium here that are doing well and one T. pusillum is spreading pretty quickly! I have already divided it once and spread the divisions around.


It’s small but it’s so pretty and holds its flowers upright so you can take it in without bending over to see it.

Today I finished cleaning up this garden, but now with the added room from my edging job I need to go through my trays and trays of plants to see what will get planted here. There are so many….I’m thinking I will add a few Viola pedata, the bird’s foot violet and perhaps a few more Primula. Because you can never have too many Primroses!!

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A few plants for the show bench

The National Show of The American Primrose Society is drawing near! And I am a vendor this year, so that means I have been very busy getting plants ready. This is a huge job which includes digging, dividing, potting, labeling, sorting the good from the not so good and worrying.

For the last few weeks I’ve been prowling around the gardens trying to decide which plants might be in bloom at the right time for the show benches and which would be good candidates for dividing & potting for the sale benches. I have dug many plants in hopes that they will be perfect for the show, but some are not panning out as planned and I’ll probably not take them. But then most are looking very good and I keep adding to the collection for the show benches.

My small 'nursery' of overwintered flats and plants for the APS show

My gardens are my nursery which means I don’t have a whole lot of room for all the plants I would like to grow, so the variety of plants won’t always be where I would like. I grow almost everything from seed or division and I’m learning new techniques all the time. I’ve been reading Bill Cullinas book ‘Wildflowers’ A Guide to Growing and Propagating Native Wildflowers of North America. It has been such a great guide. I love Bill’s way of explaining all manner of growing methods in such an enjoyable way. I just learned that if you poke around the crown of Dodecatheon you can tease off a few easily separated crowns and pot or replant them. So I went out and put this knowledge to practice and he’s right! The plant does separate very easily and I left most undisturbed, while separating off 3 crowns for potting. Next I want to try my hand at root cuttings of Primula denticulata.

Primula denticulata in the garden

The above plant will grow into a large ball of purple flowers. These love a constantly moist soil in part shade and will self sow when happy. Each year the clump gets larger and can be dug & divided in early spring. They come in pink, white and all shades of purple to almost red. I’ve got lots of them all along my streamside,and they are one of the earliest flowers in the garden.

Preparations for the Primrose show will be ongoing this week up till the last minute when I leave friday morning, so I’ll try to keep posting as the week goes on and especially at the show! If you want to read more about the Primrose show or see photos of past shows click here.

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The gardens are ever so slowly waking up, where there was snow yesterday, there are flowers today! A small Cyclamen coum ssp. coum was buried under snow yesterday morning when I left for work. But as I pulled into the drive in the afternoon this is what greeted me! This little plant was much smaller last year and now there are loads of self-sown seedlngs all around it. I am becoming so in love with cyclamen nowadays! They are easy from seed as long as you soak them for a day in water with a drop of dish soap in it, then sow at 65 degrees.

Cyclamen coum ssp. coum

Plant seedlings out into a partly shady well drained soil. The corm should be just below soil surface and they like to go dry during the summer.

Cyclamen hederifolium Seedlings

 Sprinkle a little lime on them each spring as like a slightly elevated PH.

So of course I had to take a walk through the rest of the gardens, actually it was creeping on hands & knees,  to do a bit of exploring and feeling around for other buried treasures! This is the time when I do alot of loosening up of the winter mulch of shredded leaves & pine needles that I spread late last fall. It really packs down over the soil and I always feel it needs to be fluffed up now. But what I’m really doing is looking to see what is poking up through the soil and what will be blooming soon and what just didn’t make it through the winter.

Here’s another early spring blooming bulb that is so hardy here.

Iris histrioides 'Katherine Hodgekins'

These small Iris need a bit of sun to do their best, so in almost every pool of sunlight I’ve popped a few of these in. And up the pop a few more each spring.

Almost every day I dig up a clump of something to divide and pot up in preparation for the American Primrose Society National Show the last weekend of this month at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston, Mass. I’ll be there as an organizer and a vendor, so try to come and enjoy the show benches full of the most beautiful flowering Primula of all sorts, colors, forms and sizes. For more information go to www.americanprimrosesociety.org  See you there!

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