Spring flowers are quickly developing now, finally!
Secret Garden - Poéme
Secret Garden - Poéme

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The forsythia brings us signs of the arrivial of spring


Even if you're not a gardener, you know the forsythia flowering shrub because of its wonderful golden yellow waxy flowers at this time of the year; it's our first and most beautiful plant of spring time. Each flower has 4 petals and the center looks like a tiny trumpet, 1 to 1.5 inches long and wide.


Some people do not know the name of the plant but they know that it's beautiful and they want "One of those yellow shrubs that are in bloom right now, for my yard." Forsythia is so popular because it will grow in most soil types, it will grow in a yard with full sun exposure to half a day of shade, and it will tolerate a climate where the temperature drops to minus 10 degrees during the winter.


I think forsythia is the most recognized flowering shrub because it is the first to flower in the spring time and because the entire plant is covered with flowers from the ground to the top of every branch. Most flowering plants flower on the tip of the branches, on the new growth on top of the plant or along the stems but few plants flower right to the ground.


At this time of the year when we have had cold, cloudy, and wet weather for many weeks, the golden yellow flowers are like the sunshine we miss most during the winter. Forsythia is a plant that will grow in everyone yard, no matter how much or how little you know about gardening.


Let me tell you how forsythia will grow better for you in your yard. This plant will grow large, so give it plenty of room when you choose a spot in your yard. If you do not prune your plant, it can grow 8 to 10 feet tall and just as wide. If you want to keep the plant smaller and under control you will have to prune it every spring when it finishes flowering.


The pruning is best done by cutting back the individual branches by 1/3 to 1/2, or removing the largest branches to stimulate new growth from the base of the plant. This pruning must be done before the new foliage begins to form on the plant, so all the energy in the plant can encourage new growth uniformly throughout the plant. What makes this plant look so nice in the spring is that all the branches are tangled, growing in all directions, and--if pruned properly--the plant will grow in a rounded spreading mound with branches that grow upright or cascade to the ground.


I prune my plants when half of the flowers have fallen and like me, you should NEVER use hedge shears when pruning. Hedge shears shape the plant to grow too rounded--sometimes like a ball-shaped shrub because you are pruning all the branches the same length. Prune each branch separately and at different lengths to keep the plant looking graceful and more natural. Pruning in the early spring encourages new growth to thicken the plant and encourages more flower buds to form on the plant for next spring.


When you plant, condition the soil with compost, animal manure, or peat moss to encourage the plant to get established quickly in your garden. I encourage you to add kelp or mycorrhizae at the same time for better root development. You should water the plant every other day the first month and weekly right up to frost the first year. In the fall (early September), fertilize with Plant Tone or Milorganite fertilizer  to prepare it for the winter.


You will notice that the branches of the forsythia plant are covered with small raised bumps. These bumps are like spots of a cork-like material very similar to the raised edge, or wing-like growths of the burning bush, and are very noticeable when the leaves are off the plant. When the new growth first forms, the bark will be golden yellow in color; it matures to gray. The flower buds develop around the stems in clusters facing in all directions, and when they are open cover the entire plant.


The foliage is medium green, oval, 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 1 1/2 inch wide, with tiny teeth along the edge of the leaf. In the fall, the foliage will change to a bright purple-red color if the plant is in the sun all day. Plants in partial shade will not change color; the foliage falls from the plant when still green.


Forsythia makes a wonderful plant for a privacy hedge and will grow very well along the side of the road where salt can be a problem for most other plants. Use it in mass plantings to bring color into your yard, as individual plants in your foundation planting, or as a background plant behind your perennial gardens.


Forsythia has few to no problems with insects or disease, and aside from spring pruning requires little to no attention from you during the year. Because it does grow so thick but looks open and airy, the plant will make a great place for nesting birds to make nests once the foliage develops. The stems are very strong and when the foliage falls from the plant, snow can easily fall through the branches of the plant, causing little to no damage during the winter.


There are some varieties that are more weeping than upright growing. These are wonderful when planted on top of a wall or on the side of a hill, allowing branches to hang down to the ground or over the wall; look for forsythia suspensa v. sieboldii.


If the tall growing varieties are too tall for you and you like the yellow flowers in the spring, look for the new dwarf types like forsythia 'Bronxensis,' which grows one foot tall and will spread to 3 feet wide. This plant will make a great ground cover or low growing hedge.


Also for a bit more height, look for forsythia 'Arnold,' a dwarf which will grow 3 feet tall and wide. This plant has wide arching branches, and when the branches contact the soil, they will root easily. Just dig up the rooted branch and you will have a new plant for your garden. This forsythia is wonderful for planting on slopes or banks.


The most popular tall growing varieties are 'Lynwood Gold,' 'Spring Glory' and 'Robusta.' Look for them this spring at your favorite nursery or garden center. One last thing to remember about the forsythia is that this plant can be pruned from January to April. The branches you cut can be brought into the house, placed in a tall vase of water and the buds will burst open, giving you a peek at what spring will look like in just a few weeks. Enjoy!!!




The Star Magnolia is the hardest of all the Magnolia's




From Maine to Minnesota and south to Georgia, there is no more exciting tree than the flowering star magnolia in the springtime. As April approaches, the tree begins to open its flower buds, which resemble pure white eggs that burst into pure white star-like flowers, quickly covering the tree branches.


On a bright full moon evening look at your tree for a real treat, as those flowers will glow in the moonlight and light up your garden with color. Next fall, plant white-flowering daffodils in the garden around the base of the tree and you will be in for a very special treat. White reflects the moonlight and your garden will amaze you--try it.


The star magnolia is the first flowering tree of spring time and it will show you that warm weather is not far behind, so get ready for spring. This type of magnolia will grow as large as a flowering crabapple, from 15 to 20 feet tall and just as wide--but if placed in a sheltered area with evergreen trees protecting it from the winds it can and will grow larger. The star magnolia can be grown as a single trunk small tree or multi stem shrub-like tree; it will depend on the shape of the plant you select at the nursery.


If you want more of a tree shape, select a plant at the nursery with just one main trunk and remove all the other smaller branches that develop at the base of the plant. Your pruning techniques will shape the future growing habit of the plant and determine its overall shape. If you allow the side branches or the shoots that will form the base of the plant to form, the plant will stay shorter and spread out more like a large shrub does. If you prune out the side shoots and lower branches, the plant will grow taller, stay more narrow and spread out less, resembling a tree more--it's up to you.


The bark of the plant is smooth, gray, and very clean looking. The branches have many small side shoots that will form; these side shoots will all make flowers in the spring. The flowers look like giant daisies when in bloom and each flower can have 25 or more white petals that grow 2 to 3 inches long and 3/4 to 1 inch wide. The star magnolia flowers will last 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes longer if the weather is not too severe and warm as the flowers begin to fade. Because the flower petals are long and narrow, the wind seems to flow through them easily.


The saucer magnolia, a wonderful sister to this plant, has much larger flower petals and if the weather gets stormy will blow apart easily, causing the base of the tree to look as if a box of Kleenex exploded under it. So if your yard is in an exposed area with lots of wind, plant the star magnolia, not the saucer magnolia and you will enjoy the flowers longer in your garden.


What also makes the flowers last longer on the tree is that the flower buds do not all open at the same time, happening over a week or two in April. At this time of the year, the weather is cooler and this also helps to keep the flowers blooming longer. The flowers have a mild fragrance when the days are warm and the weather is dry. If you have a branch that is growing out of shape, prune it off while it's in bloom and place it in a tall vase of water to enjoy on the kitchen table for a couple of weeks.


The leaves are dark green, oval in shape, growing from 4 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Some years the leaves will develop on the tree at the same time as the flowers are in bloom. In the fall, if the wind and insects did their job properly, a pod will form where the flowers were on the plant. The pod is cone-shaped, with swollen bumps along its side that contain small red seeds. The pod is gray, and it will burst open and reveal its seeds when the weather gets cold in the fall, as the leaves drop to the ground from the tree. Birds and small animals like chipmunks will eat the seed during the winter, or you can pick them and store them in your vegetable crisper for the winter and plant them in the spring time.


Magnolias will grow in full sun or half a day in the shade. They will grow much better if there is moisture available to them all year long. If your soil is sandy, be sure to add lots of organic matter like compost, animal manure or peat moss when planting. To help get your magnolia off to a good start, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of Soil Moist granules to help hold moisture around the new roots that form. I have had great results also adding kelp seaweed and mycorrhizae at the time of planting to help the roots to develop more quickly.


Always plant magnolias in a planting bed and cover the soil with bark mulch to help hold moisture around the roots of the plant and keep out weeds. Planting beds also help prevent damage to the trunk of the plant from your lawn mower and weed whacker. The bark is smooth and thin; it will not tolerate bruising from your garden equipment. The planting bed also gives you room to plant spring flowering bulbs like white daffodils for your moonlight garden in the spring and annuals for summer color.


I have always noticed that flowering plants that have flowers planted under or near them always flower better in the spring. This is because you are feeding the flowers during the summer, and your flowering trees get some of the food you're giving your flowers. This feeding will help produce more energy for your plants and make flowers for next year on your trees.


Keep the plant well watered the first year in your garden; if the plant is taller than 5 to 6 feet, I would stake it in the fall to help keep the winter winds from blowing it around during the winter and damaging the new roots. If you're planting the tree in an area where there are tall grasses or a wooded area close by, be sure to wrap the trunk of the tree a couple of feet high with tree wrap the first winter to prevent mouse damage.


If the winter is one with lots of snow and the snow lasts into early April, don't be surprised if squirrels eat the flower buds before they have a chance to open; it does not happen often but it does happen. They also like rhododendron flower buds so if you see those disappearing, use an animal repellent on them quickly.


Plant the star magnolia as a single tree, or plant several in a row to create a wonderful tall-growing privacy hedge on your property; they also make a good noise barrier to buffer road noise and quiet the traffic. If the side of your house has a large blank wall between windows, a tall fence, or evergreens as a background, the star magnolia will soften the area during all seasons of the year. This is also a great plant to place a spotlight under to highlight the unique branches and flowers.


The star magnolia is a tree that will give your garden the look and feel of the South in the cold of the Northeast. All you need is a mint julep and a rocking chair near the tree to enjoy the arrival of spring! Enjoy!


Apple Blossom Time
Apple Blossom Time
Ground Phlox are first spring blooming perennial


Back in the days when this country was considered "The Colonies," our gardeners exported phlox plants to Great Britain. That's right, North America is the home to the entire phlox family of plants. Of the 70 species of phlox available, all but one is native. The botanical name for phlox in Greek means "flame," because the plants grew flowers in bright hot-looking colors. If you were a botanist, you would call the flower that the phlox makes a "salverform" bloom. A simple definition of "salverform" is a tiny tube-like flower that opens into a trumpet-shaped flared or flattened face with five petals. Most species produce these flowers in clusters that are rounded and believe it or not, even the ground phlox produces flowers in this rounded flower cluster. Next time you're out in your garden, lift up a side shoot from your clump and look closely at the flowers. What looks to be a carpet of single flowers is really small clusters of flowers covering the plant--check it out.


When most gardeners think of phlox they think of the tall-growing phlox with beautiful ice-cream cone shaped flower clusters. They think of the warm summer nights with cool colors of lavender-blue, purple, mauve, pink red and white flowers standing up tall your garden. Summer-flowering phlox is nice, but to me the ground covering varieties are more exciting, because at this time of the year color in the perennial garden is still very limited. Most perennials are still dormant or just beginning to poke through the soil, but this wonderful plant is in full bloom. Not only that, but the perennial ground phlox is evergreen to semi-evergreen, and on those cold winter days when snow is not covering the ground the phlox is greener than your lawn. The ground phlox will tolerate temperatures down to -40 to -50 degrees--how many of your perennial flowers can tolerate that and stay green all winter long? Not many!


Ground phlox grow like a carpet, hugging the ground. They are creepers, covering even rocks in your garden and creating a mat of foliage that will cascade or trail over a short wall. Ground phlox will grow on or over any surface as well as obstacles; truly a unique flowering plant. During April we all crave color and the weather can still be cold and unsettled, but this plant does develop flowers that will stay in bloom on the plant even if the temperatures dip below freezing. For this to happen, your plant must have good drainage; otherwise it will suffer from root rot during cold, wet weather. The roots of the ground phlox grow don't grow very deep in the garden. If your soil is on the sandy side you may have to water during the summer months if the plant is growing in full sun or the summer is hot and dry.


Ground phlox will flower for 2 to 3 weeks during April or early May. In a more northerly growing area the spring time temperatures always determine the flowering time. When plants finish flowering, shear back the plant to help control the size of the plant and encourage it to stay full and thick. As the plant ages, it will begin to die out in the center; that is normal. Dig it up, divide the plant into sections, and remove the dead sections from the clump. Plant the outer edges as clumps, with fresh soil that you have conditioned with compost or animal manure. If you can add mycorrhizae when planting, it will help stimulate the new roots to form more quickly and the summer weather will help new growth to develop.


Ground phlox flowers come in shades of white, pink, purple, red, lavender-blue and a new hybrid pink and white striped variety called "Candy Stripe.' This plant can spread 2 to 3 feet wide and will grow to 6 to 9 inches tall. When the flowers fall the Kelly green foliage will begin to grow, it can spread 6 inches or more each summer. When you plant a young plant, the foliage will feel soft and smooth but as the plant ages, the foliage gets prickly and becomes needle-like, almost like a spruce tree. The once soft and flexible green stems will also get woody, turn brown, rough, and more rigid. This is your signal to divide the plant into small clumps 6 to 8 inches in diameter.


A soil that is slightly acidic to alkaline will work well to encourage new growth and many flowers. If your garden is near oaks and pines, I would suggest that you apply lime, wood ash, or Bonide turf turbo or Espoma lightning lime every year to keep acidity levels down. Fertilize in the spring when the flowers begin to fade with a good perennial fertilizer such as Flower-Tone or Garden-Trust flower and vegetable  fertilizer 15-15-14.


If you plant ground phlox in the front of your border, it will creep out into your lawn if not pruned after flowering. Grass will also grow into your flower bed from the edge and can create a problem if you do not edge the perennial bed every year. If the grass gets into the plant bed it may be necessary to dig it up and manually pull the grass and its roots from the clump. It is best to set plants 12 inches from the edge of the bed to prevent problems.


If you have a steep bank that is difficult to mow and you're looking for a ground cover, the ground phlox could be the right plant for you. Space plants on 18 inch centers in staggered rows and in a couple of years it will all grow together, creating a wonderful flowering hillside in the spring. When the flowers fade use the lawn mower to cut back the plants to keep them short and thick growing. Fertilize over the top of the foliage with organic fertilizer when rain is in the forecast or use your sprinkler to wash the food off the foliage into the ground.


Insects and disease problems are minimal, but if you see the foliage begin to bleach out a bit, it could be red spider mites. If this occurs spray the foliage with Tree and Shrub Systemic Insecticide to control the problem. The ground phlox does not get powdery mildew like the taller growing summer-flowering phlox does. Powdery mildew is the most destructive disease of the taller growing relative and many people do not grow phlox because of it. New resistant varieties are now available and better systemic fungicides are also available. If you want spring color that will brighten up your gardens at this time of the year there is no better plant than the ground phlox. Enjoy!  


"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The New Christy Minstrels ~ Green Green (HQ)

The New Christy Minstrels ~

Green Green (HQ)


The butterfly bush or Buddleia




This summer, when you sit on your patio or deck, would you love to have a flowering shrub to look at that will bloom all summer long and attract butterflies and humming birds? Impossible you say, but there is such a shrub--the butterfly bush. If you have a sunny spot in your yard that is a bit protected from the winter winds, you're ready to plant. The butterfly bush will grow from five to ten feet tall and just as wide. You can prune to direct the size of the plant in your yard or just let it grow. This beautiful flowering shrub will grow in almost every yard. It adapts to your needs in the landscaping you planned for your yard. Use the plant in a perennial border, plant several in a row for a privacy hedge or place one on the corner of your deck to bring nature closer to you, as the butterflies will feed on its nectar all summer long. Did I tell you it is also fragrant and the plant will flower from June to first frost?


The butterfly bush is an old fashioned shrub once cherished for tranquility in the garden. The new cultivars have brought it back into style today and if you like flowering shrubs, this is the plant for your garden. The butterfly bush will grow with long arching branches much like the forsythia shrub does. The branches are slender and create a mounding look to the plant. The leaves are long and slender--4 to 8 inches long, and the color varies from gray-green to dark green in color, with a soft and silvery and soft underside. The leaves, which hold onto the plant well into the fall, do not have any fall color change.


The fragrant flowers develop in June and resemble miniature lilacs. The first flower can be as long as 10 inches long and last on the plant for 3 to 4 weeks. When they fade, prune them off and two side shoots will develop with blooms 6 to 8 inches long. Prune them off again when they fade and now the same branch will make 4 flowers 4 to 6 inches long. The more you clean the plant the more it will flower. Butterfly bush flowers come from white, pink, lavender, red and purple.


Butterfly bush will come in a pot, instead of dug from the ground, as the plants do not transplant well. When you plant it, do not try to move it around your yard; plant it and leave it alone. Plants do best in a well-drained soil that you can keep moist or a rich loam type soil. Plant the Butterfly Bush with compost and organic fertilizers. Water two times a week until established; it will take 2 to 3 months for the plant to be well rooted. When it gets hot, the plant will grow fast and requires more water. Once established, in the second year the plant will tolerate heat and drought conditions. If the plant can get a little shade at the end of the day, I have noticed more butterflies on the plant.


In the spring, cut the plant in half to encourage new growth, unless you want it to grow large for privacy hedges. All plants will require spring pruning to remove dead branches and cleaning of the plant after winter. Never prune this plant in the fall. Fertilize in spring only--never in the fall--or it will not begin to harden off the growth and prepare for the winter. The butterfly bush also will not tolerate wet soils or road salt so keep plants away from the side of the road. The best place to plant it is where you spend your summer relaxing. It is also a great plant to put near the vegetable garden, as the flowers will attract honey bees all season long. Having more bees near the garden means better pollination and more vegetables to harvest. The flowers come on long stems and make a great cut flower for the kitchen table, lasting a week or two. Plant one or two this spring and find out why the plant is called the butterfly bush--you will think that the plant is moving in your yard. Enjoy!



Home made beans and Brown Bread


Homemade Baked Beans and Brown Bread


When I was growing up in Central Maine many years ago, baked beans and Brown Bread did not come from a can, they were home made from scratch. Every home had its own favorite recipe and these two were common in our home on Saturday night. With a bit of luck we all got a couple fried Hot Dogs to go along with this feast.


Vermont style Baked Beans



1 pound of dried navy beans

4 cups of water

1 pound of thick sliced bacon, cut into strips and chopped

1 large sweet onion

1 cup of real Maple Syrup, not the maple flavored type

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of ground dried mustard

teaspoon of coarsely ground pepper




1} Soak your dried beans according to the package directions. Drain and rinse the beans, discard the liquid. Place the beans in a Dutch oven, add water, and bring to a boil.


2} Use a large skillet; cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, drain the grease and dispose. Add and mix the onions, real maple syrup, salt, dry mustard, pepper and bacon into the beans.


3} Cover the mixture once well blended and bake at 300 degrees for 3 to 3 hours or until the beans are tender and reach the desired consistency. Stir your beans every 30 minutes and if the water evaporates quickly you can add a little extra water at a time to keep them moist. Ketchup can be added to fit your taste but I liked them without. Enjoy!!



Homemade Brown Bread


This Brown bread does not taste like the can brown bread and its taste is like comparing tomatoes grown in your garden to those purchased from the supermarket. As my Dad use to say to my mom "it's out of this world, Honey," and it was, so try it and enjoy.




cup of cornmeal

cup of whole wheat flower

cup of rye flower

teaspoon od baking soda

teaspoon of baking powder

teaspoon of salt

1 cup of buttermilk

1/3 cup of molasses

2 mounded tablespoons of dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon of canola or corn oil

5 to 6 tablespoons of chopped walnuts toasted

5 to 6 mounded tablespoons of raisins




1} in a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, wheat flour, rye flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, mix well. In a second bowl, whisk the buttermilk, molasses, brown sugar, and oil. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Add the walnuts and raisins to the mixture and blend well. Now transfer to a greased 8 by 4 inch cake loaf pan and cover with tin foil.


2} Place the cake pan on a rack in a large pot: add 1 inch of hot water to the pot. Bring to a gentle boil: cover pot and steam for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, add more water to the pot as needed.


3} Remove the cake pan from the pot and let stand for about 10 to 15 minutes before removing the bread from the pan to a wire rack. Serve brown bread hot with butter or cream cheese. If you made the cake earlier in the day slice and warm up in the toaster and butter the bread. Serve with your home made beans and enjoy Real home cooking.






Garden Journal

        Garden Journal - A garden is a friend you can visit any time. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This book makes a great gift for gardeners, family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, new home or as a self purchase.

Cover holds a 5 x7 or 4x6 photo, Heavy-duty D-ring binder

1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
3. Weather records page
4. 6 three year journal pages
5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
11. 5 graph paper pages for layouts
12. 5 photo pages holds - 4- 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Journal, Planning, Inspirations. 

 To Order call 207-590-4887

Regular price $34.95  Special Price $31.95!  special!


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