Category Archives: Garden Blogger Bloom Days

Redbuds on Bloom Day – April 2010



My friend Paul, an avid up-before-dawn birder, once made a great comment to me about cardinals. How lucky we are, he said, to have this amazing, tropical-looking scarlet bird eating at our feeders during the depths of winter. Don’t take for granted this fabulous, showy bird just because it’s native to our area.

Since I’m not an up-before-dawn anything, I’m going to preach the same message about my favorite tree: the eastern redbud (Cercis Canadensis). How great is it that this April show stopper belongs here. Not some import from Japan or China, the redbud flashes its bloom laden branches and we here in North America get to enjoy it guilt free. Hey – I have a redbud. I’m sustainable! I support local insects! I didn’t import any nasty elm-killing, chestnut-blighting hitchhiking fungus! See – you can feel good about owning a redbud.

But even if you don’t look over your shoulder guiltily whenever you plant a non-native (true confessions), you must admit the redbud is spectacular. The blooms burst right out of the bark for goodness sake.

My dad always said he loved them in the spring, but they were horribly ugly the other 49 weeks of the year. I must disagree. They have beautiful heart-shaped leaves and grow up to 30’ tall so they can provide shade if planted strategically. They love full sun to part shade and well drained soil. Apparently they don’t transplant well, but I’ve moved mine twice and its doing great. Plant one next to a white dogwood and you’ve got a gorgeous pair all year round.

So there you go. Plant a redbud. And then be amazed with me at this spring and the bounty of blooms we have to enjoy on tax day.

My lilac behaved this year:

The grape hyacinths are actually just past their peak (at least the ones in the sun):

I love the tiny blooms on the brunnera macrophylla:

as well as the tiny blooms on the sweet woodruff

and look! The hope of blueberries

The foam flower is getting there:

And my favorite newcomer (and native),  fothergilla

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m getting tired of uploading. Wait, here come the tulips. In back:

and in front:

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day every month. Very fun!

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Bloom Day and 18th Century Herbal Remedies

My garden is looking a bit sparse for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day in March. I surely was hoping for more. I’m limited to not enough crocuses (never enough!) and some hopeful tulip foliage. I’ve been consoling myself by hacking away at an old stump with an axe. Excellent exercise and a great way to work out any frustration or tension you might be harboring.

So, with not much to report in the garden, I’ll tell you a little story. Last week I visited America’s very first hospital. Pennsylvania Hospital opened its doors in 1751 to much fanfare in Philadelphia. (4th grade field trip chaperone if you must know). Fascinating. And the hospital is still in business which is kind of cool.

The tour guide educated about colonial medical philosophies. Laxatives got a rise out of the kids. Folk remedies made them laugh. Leaches had them howling.  Conversation about herbal remedies bored the 4th graders but left me wishing I knew which plants healed what, what herbs to take for a headache, how to stew a rosemary stem until it was just right for making your stomach feel better. (Does stewed rosemary stem make your stomach feel better? See, I don’t even know!)  Colonists had recipe books for herbal remedies – many brought on their long voyage across the sea, many scribbled down from memories of mothers’ brews, many compiled from knowledge gathered from Native Americans. It is an art that has been lost to me, at least. Sure, there’s google, but somehow it’s not the same. Generations of women (and men, but mostly women) knew what to do when their family got sick. All I know is children’s Tylenol.

So there I was pining for a simpler time when we were in touch with the land, gardened for more than just our own pleasure, passed knowledge from one generation to the next. Clearly, I was missing the point. While herbal remedies had their place, they didn’t quite cover all the necessary medical treatments of the day. Echinacea and mint tea only went so far when you were facing something like, say, 18th century surgery. The three choices for anesthesia when the hospital opened were rum (lots and lots of rum), opium (which got you good and relaxed, but just until the scalpel hit), or a sharp tap on the skull with a wooden mallet (hard, but not too hard!). Oh, and you had to schedule your drunken, high, or major-head-injury surgery between the hours of 11am and 2pm because that’s when there was enough sunlight in the operating room. On sunny days.

But you’ve got to love a field trip that ends with your kid asking, “Can we plant lemon balm in our garden this year?” At the end, the tour guide had each of the children make a sachet of dried herbs like the ones 18th century Philadelphians held to their noses just to make their way through town. Apparently, colonial times stank. Bad. Buckets of lavender, lemon balm, rose petals, cloves, cinnamon, jasmine, and allspice turned into 23 little bags of yummy.

We rode home thankful for children’s Tylenol. And anesthesia. And surgeons who wash their hands BEFORE surgery. And delicious sachets that ignited the imagination and took the edge off of that school bus smell.

p.s. Thanks to Carol at May Dream’s Garden for hosting Garden Blogger Bloom Day!

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Bloom Day Blues at Longwood Gardens

Longwood Hybrid Cineraria (Pericallis x hybrida)

“There is no such thing as a blue flower.” That’s what my mom said as we were discussing my nosegay for the Town & Country cotillion Holly Ball when I was in sixth grade. (Remember nosegays? The little hand-held bouquets with the plastic handles?)   That’s what I remember anyway.  Although now that I think about it, I remember having this conversation while she weeded the garden. Could she possibly have been weeding in December, the traditional time for Holly Balls? Whether or not memory is a reliable witness is a conversation for another day. Let’s just agree for the sake of argument that she said it. I certainly believed her. She could make anything grow and my 12-year-old mind hadn’t registered the possibility that parents could be wrong.

Canterbury Bells (campanula medium)

To this day I’m amazed and overjoyed when I find blue flowers. I paid a visit to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania today in the hopes that their conservatory might lift my spirits. (Still multiple feet of snow on the ground here with more forecast for tonight. Bleh. Check out my posts 48″ of Snow and The Thrill of Victory for pretty snow pics and a more embracing attitude).  I went ostensibly to enjoy the “orchid extravaganza,” but it was the blue flowers that caught my attention. Not only is there such thing as a blue flower, there are loads of them.  I suppose you might argue that some of these lean a bit towards purple, but all in the family, right? Some of the colors were so vibrant that a fellow observer, upon seeing the hydrangea pictured below,  recalled the old  science-fair trick with carnations: “Do you think they used food coloring?”

Hydrangea macrophylla "Mathilda Gutges"

I checked. These were no cuttings that had sucked up blue colored water. They were the real deal.

I liked the spiky crown on this ground-ivy sage:

salvia glechomifolia

and don’t you just love the yellow tips on this ceanothus? Like tiny little rings, or maybe handbags. (Work with me, I’m thinking accessories here):

ceanothus "Ray Hartman"

My mom should certainly have known about these grape hyacinths. They are exactly the same color as her eyes which are very decidedly blue.  (Any wonder my dad fell for her?):

So, that’s what’s blooming today in my garden, hmm, I mean at Longwood’s garden. Hey, at least they’re blooming somewhere nearby in the midst of a very white winter!

Visit May Dreams Garden to see what’s blooming in gardens around the world.

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, January 15

I’m a week in to my little blogging project, and I just experienced my first wave of complete overwhelmedness (is that a word?).

Did you know there are THOUSANDS of garden blogs out there? They are gorgeous and the writers are real writers and the gardeners are real gardeners. There’s even a garden blog directory (and if there’s one there are probably a hundred). 997 garden blogs currently registered on just this one.

Did you know that there is a conference every year for garden bloggers? This year’s meeting in Buffalo will be the third annual. According to their website, “during the day, we’ll hit the highlights of Western New York’s most beautiful and interesting gardens (public and private); during the evening we’ll eat, talk and hang out.” Sign me up!

Did you know that today is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day? Who knew? Actually, every 15th of the month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day  – bloggers from all over post descriptions and photos of what’s blooming in their gardens that day. It’s like a little botanical journey ‘round the world! And, let me tell you, it makes me feel a bit inferior. Lots of orchids out there, and, hey, its January so I do have one orchid bloom on my brand new purchase. But lots of real blooms – actual flowers that are growing and blooming OUTSIDE on the 15th of January. I really do need to move to California.

Did you know that I had to rip off another berry picture from a neighbor’s garden even to participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day? Nothing blooming at the old homestead this year. I think I’m going to have to appropriate the entire village of Penn Wynne, Pennsylvania as “my garden.” (The sign erected by the county on our main road actually reads “Village of Penn Wynne.” A village 15 minutes from downtown Philly. How great is that?) I think I’ll do that. My yard is miniscule as are those of my neighbors. We must stick together.

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