Holiday Gifts for Gardeners 2017

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Here are some gift ideas for the gardener on your holiday list:

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Arianna Necklace

Pure silver Fig leaf, accented with a tiny faceted labradorite, brought together by a delicate gold vermeil branch, to gracefully adorn your day! 18" long.

$95 The Alchemist's Garden

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The Green Thumb Gardening Gift Box

Includes (3) Assorted seed packets, The Curious Gardener book, Floral drawer sachet, Cherry bon bons candies, Water spritzer bottle, Spade, Foam knee pad, Garden stepping stone, Pretzel sticks, Moisturizing hand cream, Gardening gloves, (2) Herbal teas

$62 Hayneedle.com

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Garden Conservancy Membership

A membership to the Garden Conservancy will provide pleasurable days of touring gorgeous private gardens.

From $50, Garden Conservancy 

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Meyer Lemon

An heirloom dwarf lemon with delicious golden-yellow fruit, Meyer Lemon makes a fine potted plant and it’s one of the hardiest lemons for cool temperatures. The fruit is more flavorful than store-bought lemons and is prized by chefs. It bears heavily at a young age, flowering and fruiting year-round.

From $24.95, Logee's

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Aged Scallop Planters

The gentle ripples of the scallop planter make for a cheerful sun bonnet impression around your plants. A genuine classic shape that has stood the test of time, and that continues to be a favourite in all sizes.

From $23.75, Campo de' Fiori

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Plantable Wire Lantern

With a glass hurricane inside to hold your favorite pillar candle, this open-weave wire lantern welcomes a planting of seasonal greens or an abundant display of fresh cuts.

From $48, Terrain

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Deluxe Soil Knife

The one gardening tool you can't be without! Use it to: divide plants, plant bulbs, flowers and herbs, dig out weeds, remove rocks, cut through roots, plant in pots, clean out cracks, cut twine and ties, and for so much more!

$22.49, AM Leonard

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Copper Roof Birdhouse

These handcrafted birdhouses are a focal point in flower gardens or nature sanctuaries. Durable construction and beautiful materials made these houses perfect gifts.

From $69, Wooden Expression

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Bioprotect Year-Round Greenhouse

Protect plants from chilly temperatures and wind, so you can plants out weeks earlier and to harden off transplants. Once the weather warms up, slide out the polycarbonate top panel, leaving the screen to foil most insects, slugs and wildlife.

$159, Gardener's Supply

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Herb Pot with Tray

Your sunny kitchen windowsill is the ideal place for herbs and this set of three pots is perfectly sized to fit. Each pot is faced with a front slot, pre-printed with Basil, Parsley or Thyme and may be customized by slipping in a label of your own.

$29, William-Sonoma

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The Garden Tourist: 120 Destination Garden and Nurseries in the Northeast

A travel guide of 120 gardens and nurseries in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

$21.95 Enchanted Gardens

The Quest for the Perfect Rose

 Cinderella Rose, photo courtesy of palatine roses

Cinderella Rose, photo courtesy of palatine roses

Every year I focus on updating a different section of my garden, and this is the year of the rose bed. I have always grown roses in my garden - in fact they were the first flowers that I planted when we moved into our house in 1992. Six roses came on the moving truck with us from the city -  I grew them in pots on the porch of our rented apartment in Somerville, and overwintered them in the unheated stairwell. They went into the ground in a circular bed in my front yard, created by the previous owner's leaf pile that had been left there over the winter. Most of them did not survive that exposed, windy location, pummeled by northwestern winds all winter long. I was a novice gardener, and did not realize that my tender hybrid teas needed winter protection. But despite my lack of success, I was determined to grow roses in my garden.

 Aloha Rose was one of the roses that I brought from my city apartment, and it blooms to this day on my trellis.

Aloha Rose was one of the roses that I brought from my city apartment, and it blooms to this day on my trellis.

I created new beds in sheltered locations, and ordered barefoot rose collections - hybrid teas from Jackson and Perkins for the bed bordering my stone garage, fragrant David Austin roses to grow along the fence. The roses were undoubtedly fussy plants - ravaged by aphids and Japanese beetles, and stripped of their leaves due to blackspot and other fungal diseases. Despite winter protection, some reverted to their Blaze rootstock, so instead of a yellow shrub rose, I ended up with another red climber that bloomed only once a year.

But when they were in bloom, the roses were gorgeous. Every year, my children lavishly decorated the table with roses for my Mother's Day breakfast, and made elaborate bouquets for my June birthday celebration. They even brought me a bouquet of my roses when I was in the hospital one early November. So even as I debated whether I should continue growing these beautiful, fussy flowers, I knew that I could not give them up. I decided to go on a quest for roses that were winter hardy, disease-resistant, fragrant, re-blooming, and had the "cabbage-rose" look of old-fashioned roses that I love.

 a birthday bouquet made by my daughter

a birthday bouquet made by my daughter

At the Connecticut Flower Show, I attended a wonderful lecture by Mike and Angie Chute (RoseSolutions) entitled "Twenty-Five Fabulous Roses". Mike and Angie just published a book of 150 easy to grow, sustainable roses: Roses for New England: A Guide to Sustainable Rose Gardening. I was delighted to learn about roses that could be grown here in Massachusetts without winter protection and without constant fungicide or pesticide application. Most of these are hybrids that have been developed in the last 15 years. While Mike shared his list of 25 favorite roses, I asked him to point out those that were also fragrant. Sadly, in an effort to hybridize for hardiness, disease-resistance and a long season of bloom, modern hybridizers had sacrificed fragrance. Of the 25 roses on Mike's list, only 6 were fragrant.

 

I also found a second excellent guide to disease-free roses by Peter E. Kukielski, Roses Without Chemicals. Peter is the former curator of the rose garden at New York Botanical Garden, and this book highlights 150 tough new varieties of roses that perform well in all kinds of conditions. Each rose in the book has a detailed description along with a point rating which includes scores for disease resistance, bloom, fragrance and an overall score.

Cross-referencing both lists, culling out only fragrant roses and those with full, cabbage-rose heads, choosing those hardy to our zone and those that grew in a particular size range, I came up with a list of about 15 roses. Now the challenge was to find them for sale. I decided to order them via mail-order so that I could get them in the ground early. Nurseries often do not have roses until May. I was also looking primarily for bare-root, because I think that it's easier to establish bare-root shrubs in the garden. Some nurseries have already closed bare-root orders for the season. In the end, I was only able to find about half of my list, and placed my orders at White Flower Farm, Heirloom Roses, and Palatine Roses in Canada.

My final selection (from top left): Ascot, First Crush, Lion's Fairy Tale, Mother of Pearl, Pomponella, Summer Memories, and Cinderella (top of page). I'm very excited to try these new roses, and will let you know how they perform!

(Rose photos courtesy of Palatine Roses)

Gardening in the Hellstrip

The hellstrip — the space between a street and a public sidewalk, also known as a tree park, boulevard, meridian, and planting strip — is getting a lot of attention these days with the publication of Evelyn Hadden’s Hellstrip Gardening by Timber Press. This comprehensive guide with gorgeous color photographs of hellstrip gardens across the country offers inspiration and visual guidance to anyone ready to tackle this final frontier.

Hellstrip gardening is nothing new to my friend Kathy, who has been adding curb appeal to her home with hellstrip plantings for 15 years. Kathy began her roadside garden when she got tired of trying to keep the lawn grass alive in the hellstrip year after year. Always keen on water conservation, Kathy wanted a low maintenance solution for this long, sunny expanse. Her large backyard garden had also become shaded over the years as the pine trees grew taller and taller, so the sunny hellstrip offered a chance to relocate her sun lovers from the backyard and to try some new plants in this totally different environment.

She began the garden by digging up a small section of sod around her mailbox, amending the soil, and planting various sedums that would be low maintenance and drought resistant. Bit by bit, the hellstrip garden grew, and then expanded to the other side of the driveway. Now it measures close to 100 feet, and boasts a wide variety of perennials. Kathy learned through trial and error which plants to grow, and which plants to avoid. Some perennials, like yarrows, were too tall and floppy. Annuals were too labor intensive, except for the portulaca that self sows and returns year after year. But there were many perennials that acclimated to this dry, sunny area with its relatively poor soil.

Mediterranean plants and herbs – many of which sport silver foliage and prefer a sunny situation with lean soil and good drainage, thrive in Kathy’s roadside garden. Sedums, Lamb’s ears, salvia, sage, alliums, fescues, rosemary, thyme, mint, sea lavender, and catmint bask in the baking hot sun. The garden delights passersby with a changing palette of blooms and foliage. In the early spring, crocus, creeping phlox and species tulips, which love the good drainage, cheer up the border with their blooms. They are followed by stately bearded irises, columbines and poppies in June, and daylilies, helianthus and coreopsis in mid summer. A prickly pear cactus at the base of the mailbox surprises visitors with its yellow flowers in July. Sedums steal the show in August. In a shadier part of the garden, hostas and heucheras provided beautiful foliage from spring to fall.

Gardening in the hellstrip has its challenges. The soil in these areas is usually cheap, compacted fill. Kathy amends it at planting time with compost, and has been top dressing with leaf mulch. Because of the distance from the house, the garden is difficult to water. Although Kathy does not irrigate regularly, newly installed plants need supplemental watering, which amounts to many trips with a watering can. Weeds easily blow into the garden and crabgrass is a particular problem. Since the hellstrip is town-owned property, large sections have been dug up utility companies several times without prior notice.

But overall, gardening in the hellstrip has been a positive experience for Kathy. Neighbors stop by to admire the garden, and Kathy receives many compliments on sprucing up the neighborhood. “The hellstrip builds community,” says Kathy. “People stop by to chat and ask about the flowers. And it gives me a chance to try plants that I couldn’t grow anywhere else in my garden.”

Conquering Dry Shade

Dry Shade: the words alone are enough to strike fear in the heart of the most intrepid gardener. I recently came across a newly published book that inspires you to garden in the most difficult part of your yard. Written by Graham Rice, Planting the Dry Shade Garden: The Best Plants for the Toughest Spot in Your Garden is a wonderful resource for shrubs, groundcovers and perennials that will survive inhospitable conditions under maple trees, in dark side yards, and on the north side of buildings. 

In this book you'll learn how to prune selectively to admit more light and how to amend soil to increase its moisture retention. You'll also learn about more than 130 plants that accept reduced light and moisture levels. There is an entire palette to help you transform challenging spaces into rich, rewarding gardens. This concise and beautifully illustrated book is a great addition to your garden library.

Graham Rice is an internationally recognized expert on annuals of all kinds who has written 23 books. He trained in horticulture and botany at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and is a garden writer for London's Evening Standard.