Garden with Grace

"I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some." ~H.Rappaport

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Rediscovering Inspiration

It’s that time of year in New Hampshire. The garden is done…hit by multiple freezes over the past week. I spent this morning in the garage and potting room organizing tools, putting away hummingbird feeders, and just looking around to see what could be salvaged or recycled for 2016 and what will no longer make it through another gardening season.

The Garden Cat, who continues to stalk me, found that I was in the potting room at the back of the garage, so he joined me for a while…he settled into the perfect spot to look over the spent garden to keep an eye out for chipmunks.

20151025_112138After I finished my “chores” I took some time to browse through the “Garden Library” in the corner of the potting room. It’s an eclectic mix of gardening guides and books collected over several decades by multiple generations of family gardeners. Some are gifts from friends, as well. This special library is stored in old wood crates, including one from Producer’s Dairy in Nashua.


Today, my eye was drawn to one of my all-time favorite books by Adelma Simmons. I met her in 1993 at her farm/garden that was known as Caprilands in Coventry, Connecticut.


At that time, I had a fascination with herb gardening and my visit to Caprilands turned that fascination into what is now a lifetime obsession. She signed this book for me 22 years ago this month.


A lot has changed since that visit to Connecticut. Ms. Simmons passed away in 1997 and her herbal paradise is no longer open to the public. You can read more about her via this link.

The one thing that is unchanged is my obsession of growing and using herbs for culinary, mixology, and aromatherapy purposes.

I loved rediscovering this gem of a book today and remembering back to the day that I visited Caprilands in October 1993. I look forward to reading “Gardens of Delight” again to find renewed inspiration for the 2016 garden. (Thank you Adelma! )

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Autumn Surprise

While I dread the end of the summer, there’s always a surprise in the garden in autumn.

This year, the surprise was late – the Maximillian (or New Mexican) Sunflowers.  These have been in the garden for over a decade, started from seed and over the years have been shared with friends across New England. As I write this, I’m reminded that a clump of them will be travelling this weekend to a special garden of an artist friend in Weare, NH.

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Not your typical sunflowers, these look ‘weedy’ all summer, until they start to bloom in late September.  This year, the bloom didn’t start until mid October – just in time for the frost that is expected this weekend.  There’s nothing more refreshing than a bright burst of yellow in the garden as everything else is ready to come to an end.

Mother Nature is magical!

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Beauty – Always in the Eye of the Beholder

At the end of a very rainy day, I felt the need to stroll through my now fading garden. After a few minutes, I was feeling a little down that the flowers, especially the mandevilla, are starting to shrivel and drop after a very dry summer season.

I heard a car pull up and stop on the other side of the hedge and could see a woman in the driver’s seat waving to me.

She rolled down the window and asked about the “beautiful red flowers” on the trellis. (The mandevilla that I was looking at as she pulled up.)


The woman got out of her car and told me how she enjoys looking over the hedge and into my garden while she waits to pick up her daughter who visits nearby. (She enjoys listening to the wind chimes and watching the birds, too!)

We chatted for a few minutes about gardening and nature and peacefulness. It was an interaction that lasted only a few minutes.

The irony hit me. I felt sad about the exact same thing that brought her joy.

Before she left, we exchanged introductions. Her name is Grace.

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Observing ‘the Risk to Blossom’ Today

The weather in New England, specifically where I live, in southern New Hampshire (NH) has forced me to follow my calendar this year. This fall, the garden continues to offer daily surprises, even though we’re well in to November and just over a month away from the Winter Solstice.

We’ve had a spectacular foliage season in NH – lots of red, orange, and yellow to decorate the landscape. This Japanese Maple is a good example of the bright colors:


Typically, the 7-10 days after Halloween is a big leaf raking/blowing week.  We’re fortunate in Nashua to have curb-side pickup of soft yard waste until the end of November.  In past years, the leaves were blown/raked, shredded, and either put to the curb or added to the compost bin by now.

Today, I looked out of the window.  If I didn’t know better, I’d thought it was a beautiful mid-October day.


Not only have the leaves refused to fall, but some of the flowers in the garden are still blooming as though it were still late summer. Most unusual is when I look out to the back patio and see that the Mandevilla is still looking great! I’ve never had one of these plants last in my garden/yard past mid September because even the smallest touch of frost kills this tropical plant in an instant.


While there has been a chill in the air the past 6 weeks,  we’ve yet to have a hard freeze.  What a treat it was to walk thru the garden and find some surprises on November 9!  Typically, the Hollyhocks bloom mid-late summer.  This one got wrapped into the Morning Glories. While the Glories are not so glorious anymore, there’s still one last bloom being pushed out by the Hollyhock. I can actually see it from across the yard while looking out of my home-office window.


Weeks ago, I thought I had seen the ‘last rose of summer’. Maybe I did and these are ‘the last roses of autumn’? If they stick it out, they could be the first roses of winter.


Also paying a surprise visit today were the ‘Pinks’ aka: Dianthus and the ‘Indian Blanket’ aka: Gaillardia.




Isn’t Mother Nature incredible? She definitely has a plan.

It makes me wonder if these flowers in the garden today were late bloomers or perhaps they are the best example of Anais Nin’s quote that has always been an inspiration to me in early spring:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

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A New Fall Favorite! The Purple Beautyberry Shrub

An important aspect of my garden is that it was planned to include a variety of plants to create interest all through the year.

Just as the flowers are starting to fade, there are still some late season surprises popping up.

My favorite is arrival of the amethyst colored berries on the Beautyberry shrub that we planted in the late fall of 2013. (I’ve recently learned not to call this a Beautybush, because that’s a whole other type of plant.)

It was an impulse purchase only because of the color of the berries and it is suited for zone 5. Before planting this little shrub in it’s permanent spot, it sat for a few days here and there in garden, so we could find the perfect spot to admire it the future.

Honestly, with so much coming to an end in the garden the past few weeks, I forgot about this plant.

It’s still small, about 2 feet in diameter. It will eventually get up to 4 feet tall and wide.

In the spring it had tiny white flowers. When the foliage color changes later in October, it should morph into a bright yellow shrub (if not hit by frost first!)

We are starting to see a little color change since we’ve been fortunate that the temperature has only dropped to 36(F) degrees in the Nashua area so far this fall.

And now, as we head into the middle of October, it is one of the most striking plants in the garden!


But, take a closer look. I just think “WOW!” Its color is so unusual – personally, I think that the berries look fake because that color of purple is not normally seen in my garden. Even with the iris and day lilies.


All of those bright purple berries are just beautiful. The birds enjoy these only when they exhaust the supply of other fruits and berries on the nearby holly and crabapples.

It’s nice to have something so unusual and striking in the garden appear as the nights grow long, the days grow short, and time in the 2014 garden is quickly coming to an end.


28 Day Transformation of a Sad Sod Situation

Of all of the perennial plants in the garden, growing a lush, green lawn has been the most challenging over the years.  When my grandfather was alive, maintaining the perfect lawn was his obsession.  The entire yard consisted of a moderate sized vegetable garden and the greenest, weed-free lawn in the neighborhood, if not the entire City of Nashua.

As the years have gone by, the lush lawn has evolved into large perennial gardens of local plants and flowers, most of them drought and deer resistant. However, there are two areas of the backyard with grass — each about the size of a putting green.  The paths through the gardens wind around these patches of lawn.

After the removal of an old, dying cherry tree about 7 years ago, the grass just wasn’t doing well while the tree’s roots rotted. As a result it was replaced with fresh loam and sod (about 6 years ago).

It looked beautiful, but without an irrigation system, it required a lot of water. Yes, so much water that that the first water bill of that summer was outrageously obscene. Thankfully, the investment resulted in lush, beautiful grass until the oak tree abutting my property that gave nice shade was removed last summer.

Like the cherry removed a few years earlier, it was a dying, large, old tree. It was dropping 10+ foot branches and was a hazard to the neighbor’s home and the fence on our property line. The tree became more of a concern after the dangerous, late October storms 2 years in a row – the Halloween Snowstorm and Hurricane Sandy.

The removal of the oak in the late spring of 2013 dramatically changed the sunlight across the entire garden. Overall, the evolution to a full sun area was good (actually great!) for the majority of the garden.

Except for the sod.

A Sad Sod Situation (with apologies to Sir Elton John!)

Over the past two summers, the soft, lush, green lawn turned into a brown, crunchy mess (the only green to survive consisted of weeds, which actually did very well this past summer.)  Oh, yes, it was the sun scorching the grass, but also the fact that I over fertilized in the fall of 2013 added an extra ingredient for disaster.  This is my best of life experience example that supports the idiom that “Too much of a good thing can be bad.”IMG_4877

After some research and a little desperation (for a few days, I considered buying that “As Seen on TV” product called Hydro Mousse!), the reality hit that the dead sod needed to just be removed and a new lawn had to be planted.  Timing was perfect for this late August decision because fall is the best time to plant a lawn and focus on caring for grass.

Hope is on the Way

On September 4, a landscaper started the project. In an hour, he and his crew removed what was left of the old, dead sod. On September 5, he stopped by for another hour and spread fresh, new loam.  Then, on the morning of September 6, the Tall Fescue grass seed was planted. He actually planted 2 layers of it.

Within a week, little tints of green stated to appear.  Within 2 weeks, the areas of new grass started to show real life.  At 3 weeks, it was time to a quick mow! September was cool but dry in Nashua, so the new grass was watered 2x a day for 3 weeks. (The September water bill has not yet arrived!)

Finally…..It’s Good to Touch the Green, Green Grass of Home

Today, marks week 4.  I’m just amazed at the transformation that has occurred in 28 days.IMG_4978

There are still some small open patches that will be tended to in the spring, but the grass is once again soft, lush, and green.

It’s the kind of lawn that makes you want to kick off your shoes and walk barefoot across. Exactly like you’d expect of the green, green grass of home.