Plant your window boxes to bring the color right to your window

John Denver....Sunshine On My Shoulders !!!
John Denver....Sunshine On My Shoulders !!!

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When I was going to school at the University of Massachusetts, The Stockbridge School of Agriculture, I enjoyed my drive to and from school to my home in Scituate, Massachusetts, because of the mountain laurel that was in bloom during late May and June. As I drove home on Route 2 and other back roads from Amherst, Mass., the woods along the side of the road were filled with thousands of wild-growing and native mountain laurels. They loved growing just under the tree canopy on the side of the road but grew just as well all over the undisturbed woodland where they were able to get a bit of direct sunshine during the day.
The wild mountain laurel grew rounded and very dense in a sunny location but where the shade was denser, the plant did grow taller and a bit more open. Mountain laurel is a broadleaf evergreen plant that makes flowers 3/4 to 1 inch across. These flowers come in clusters of 25 or more, and inside the cup-shaped flower, you will find 10 stamens that give the white flower a bit of color contrast. The flowers open slowly over a long period, lasting on the plant for 6 to 8 weeks. You seldom see flower clusters with individual flowers in all stages of development. The buds begin as small rounded ball shaped buds but as they mature, they begin to take the shape of a fat looking star getting ready to burst open. The flower resembles a five sided cup-type flower. The cluster has flowers and flower buds in all sizes and shapes in the same cluster, giving the rounded ball flower cluster much character.

I like the mountain laurel better than the rhododendrons--and much more than the azaleas--when they are in bloom, because the foliage and the flowers look so delicate together--almost like lace. The flower cluster can grow to 4, 5 or even 6 inches in diameter and form on the tip of the branches (the growth made last year). The wild forms will occasionally give you a bit of pink color in the flower but white is the norm. But the best is yet to come and you need to know about the foliage first.

The foliage is beautiful and evergreen, growing 2 to 5 inches long and about 2 inches wide. The leaf shape is oval with a point on its tip and it is deep green and shiny. New gardeners often confuse the mountain laurel with the bay leaf plant, as they look very similar at first glance. When the new growth first forms on the top of the plant, it will have a beautiful bronze tinge to it for several weeks before turning to the wonderful dark shiny green.

Plant mountain laurel in a location with half a day of shade; the secret to the best plant is a location with partial winter shade. I have several at my house and they are planted under tall pine trees, in the back of the house where they receive late-day sun or near a stockade fence where it is also sheltered from winter winds. If you plant them where they will get direct sun during the winter months you will have a lot of leaf damage cause by the winter sun and wind, so select a sheltered area for happy plants and no winter damage. If you're in a windy location, you can help your plant survive better during the winter months with 2 to 3 applications of Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop anti-desiccant spray. You can also cover plants with sheets of burlap, if you live near the water, to cut down on the wind hitting the foliage.

Mountain laurel loves a moist soil but not standing water, so you'll need good drainage around the plant. A soil that is rich in organic matter like peat moss, animal manure or compost will be best. Remember these plants are native, growing in a wooded area where fallen leaves and pine needles cover the soil every fall and help to enriched that soil. In your garden, be sure to add 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch around the plant to control soil moisture during the heat of summer and to prevent frost damage as the ground begins to freeze and thaw all winter long.

The plant will flower before the new growth forms on the plant in July and August; those flower buds are on the tip of the branches. Now remember this, because if you prune your plants in the fall or early spring to control the size of the plant you will also remove ALL the flower buds from the plant. Pruning is done to control the size of the plant as soon as the flowers begin to fade on the plant in early July and not before or after! If your plants are getting tall, you can cut them back as much as 1/3 at the designated time in July.
Fertilize your plants in the spring with Holly Tone every spring to keep the plants flowering and to increase foliage production for thick plants. Mountain laurel should not be limited, as these wonderful plants love acid soil! When first planted, water the plants 2 times a week until the fall of the year and if you can treat plants with two or more applications of Protilizer from Natural Alternative with mycorrhizae, it will help get them established faster and make them hardier for the winter. Do not plant mountain laurel if you have deer that frequent your property--they will eat them, unless your yard is fenced in.

Now for the big surprise about hybrids of the mountain laurel family: if you like this plant, I have a real treat for you, because the new hybrids come with red buds, pink buds and white buds. Some of the red bud varieties will have red centers, pink centers or even white centers. The pink bud types will have white centers or white centers with red or pink markings inside the flower. The new white hybrids will have white buds with red, pink or burgundy markings inside the flower. Today there are over 75 hybrids and new ones coming out every year. Some new varieties are dwarf, some have miniature foliage, and some even grow more upright than spreading.

Your average mountain laurel will grow as tall as 10 feet or more but with pruning the height can easily be controlled. This wonderful plant is hardy from Northern Maine to northern Florida and west to the Rockies. Plant with azaleas for early color; your rhododendron will bloom for mid-season color and then you have the mountain laurel for late color, April to July. Mountain laurel will look great if you are trying to create a natural look to your shaded property. They love to grow near stone walls and look great in the same planting bed as hollies, ilex and boxwood.

Try planting them in a shady perennial garden, a shady rock garden, or as a foundation plant around your home. And do plant some mountain laurel if you have a grouping of tall tines trees near your home. Mountain laurel are at their peak color now, so visit your local nursery and pick out the flower type you like best or choose several different types for a beautiful May and June garden show and gorgeous winter foliage. Enjoy!

0:24 / 3:27 You Are the Sunshine of My Life (Live @ the White House) - Stevie Wonder
You Are the Sunshine of My Life (Live @ the White House) - Stevie Wonder

Wonderful citrus scented - the Mock-Orange

Are you looking for a plant that does best when neglected, you heard right, neglected after it is established in your garden? Well if you have a spot in your garden that is not a show place, but you want some color there during June to early July, I may just have the plant for you. A location on the side of the garage maybe, a spot that needs to be covered--like the trash barrels storage area, the gas or electric meter on the side of the house or even the hideous pipe that vents out the gases from your leaching system.

The plant is called sweet mock-orange, and it will grow most anywhere from a soil with heavy clay to sandy loam. Your soil can be anything from a very acidic soil with moss growing on it, to a soil well-limed and very sweet. The location can be full sun to half a day of shade--and once this plant is established and growing well in the garden, it does not need to be fertilized and only very rarely watered by you.

In the last couple of weeks I have even seen mock-orange growing in traffic islands in the middle of a parking lot, in a planting bed 18 inches wide growing up against the side of a Wendy's restaurant with a sidewalk in front of it and in a planting bed near a supermarket with stone mulch covering the bed. All these planting areas had no irrigation, the plants looked wonderful, and they were covered with flower buds. Then I remembered that I have had several questions in the past enquiring about why "my plant, the mock-orange, does not flower?" I guess I found out the answer, you aren't neglecting it enough!

Mock-orange is a wonderful flowering plant at this time of the year. The flowers are 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter; the flower has only 4 petals, almost like your flowering crabapples, but pure powdery white. The center is filled with bright yellow pollen sacks.

The flower is fragrant in most varieties, but before you purchase a plant smell the flowers to make sure the plant you have selected is fragrant. The flowers come in clusters, not individually on the plant, and some new hybrids also have double flower petals growing up to 2 inches in diameter. The flower can have a citrus to pineapple scent to them and can be very sweet smelling.

The foliage is not impressive but a nice green color, oval, with deep lines of veins that look to be indented in the leaf; there is no fall color as the leaves fall from the plant while still green. The leaf will grow 1.5 to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. You can also find some varieties with green and white foliage, called 'Variegatus,' or green and yellow foliage, called 'Aureus,' but they are better suited for warmer climates from southern New England and south.

The plant will grow in a rounded shape when mature but when young it will be more upright; as the branches mature they will arch over, often making the plant look straggly, if not pruned after they finish flowering in July. The plant will grow fast--usually over a foot a year, and even more if you fertilize it in the spring. The mock-orange can grow 6 to 8 feet tall and just as wide but if you prune the plant every year after it finishes flowering, you can keep the plant smaller--4 to 6 feet in height and width.

I recommend that you prune the plant to control the size because it can overpower other plants in your planting bed unless you space the plants properly when planting. You can also use mock-oranges as a hedge planting, because the plants do grow thick and dense when mature. Just remember the green leaf types have no striking leaf qualities--just a plain green leaf--and tend to blend into the landscape.

Purchase plants in bloom from a nursery, to better select flower type (single or double) and to smell the flowers for their fragrance. Plant the mock-orange in a well-drained soil that has been conditioned with compost, animal manure, or peat moss so that the plant can get established quickly in your garden. Plants will not tolerate standing water at any time of the year. If your soil is sandy, add Soil Moist granules to help retain moisture during hot and dry periods during the summer months. Protilizer Natural Alternatives or Bio-Tone from Espoma will help speed root development and encourage more flower production on the plant.

If you remove older branches from the plant that are becoming hard and woody every few years, it will help the plant to produce more new growth and flowers. The new growth is more productive and it should be pruned to control the plant's size when the flowers fade on the plant. The root system of this plant is very strong when established and that is why I am telling you not to feed the plant after it is established in your garden. It is perfectly capable of growing without your help but occasional pruning is recommended.

This is an old-fashioned plant that was grown in the gardens of your grandparents, and has little to no problems with insects and diseases. When gardening became more complicated with the introduction of new hybrid plants that required more care, the mock-orange became less popular because we gave them too much care and they grew too fast and produced fewer flowers. So remember this, if you have a mock-orange and it is not flowering well, it needs less maintenance, less care, no fertilizer once established in your garden--and only water the plant when it begins to wilt!

Stress makes the plant grow better; if you have areas in your garden where nothing seems to grow this might just be the plant for you. If you like flowering plants in your garden but have little time to care for them this might just be the plant for you. If you like fragrant flowers on shrubs that will grow anywhere this is the plant for you! Enjoy.
THE 5th DIMENSION - Aquarius & Let The Sun Shine In (2007)
THE 5th DIMENSION - Aquarius & Let The Sun Shine In (2007)
Blue Princess or Blue Girl Holly

From Massachusetts to Florida, there is no finer holly than our native American holly plant called Ilex opaca. On the West coast, the English holly plant called Ilex aquifolium is the chosen plant for gardeners but for the rest of us, we just watched and wished that someday we would have a holly that would grow in our colder climate. Then in 1964, it happened in the garden of Mrs. Leighton Meserve, of St. James, New York. After many years of cross breeding and testing, the gardeners in a cold clime have a new plant to add to their collection, thanks to all her work: the "blue hollies" that are hardy to Zone 4, -20 to -30 degrees as well.

The English holly is known for its beautiful large and shiny foliage with large shiny red berries but is not hardy north of Boston and west due to the cold winter climate. Because of the beauty of this plant, Mrs. Meserve decided to cross it with the much hardier but not as attractive Prostrate holly, known as Ilex Rugosa--and it worked. The Prostrate holly had what we needed in a holly plant--cold-hardiness! The resulting cross--called the Meserve holly--quickly became the newest variety of the holly family of plants. In a cold climate, this new hybrid became the plant of choice and over the past 50 years, many new hybrids have been developed from the original plants developed by Mrs. Meserve.

Let me tell you about these wonderful holly plants. They are evergreen, so they hold the foliage all winter--and those leaves are very dark green with a bit of blue/green tinge to the mature foliage--and glossy. The leaf is small compared to other types of holly--1.5 to 2.5 inches long and 1 to 1.5 inches wide. These leaves form on stems with the same type of coloration deep green with a bluish purple tinge to them all season long. The plant is evergreen and has no fall color but when the weather becomes colder, it will darken up and have more of a purple tint to it.

The blue hollies will mature at around 6 to 8 feet tall but in a milder climate it can grow up to 12 feet tall or more. The plant will grow in a mounded or rounded habit naturally but many nurseries prune them at an early age to develop a wonderful pyramidal shape. The plant grows very dense and is shrubbier than tree form like the American or English types of holly. The plant is known as a "Dioecious plant" because it is either male or a female and only contains one type of flower on the plant. The flowers are small white blossoms that open on the plant during late April and early May. If the plant is well cared for, it will develop many flowers on the plant, making it showy for a few weeks in the spring. Only the female plant will eventually produce red berries if it is pollinated by the bees in the spring. But you must have a comparable male plant in your yard for this pollination to occur.

The male plant will produce more flowers than the female plant and is showier when in bloom. All you will need is one MALE holly plant for every 3 to 5 FEMALE plants in your gardens for pollination to occur. To produce berries, the male plant must be of the same plant type as the female. If you remember just one thing from this story, remember that American holly will only pollinate American holly, English holly will only pollinate English holly and the blue hollies will only pollinate with their blue holly counterparts. The male and female plants can be as much as 300 feet apart for pollination, so you do not have to plant them side by side for this to happen. But they must have the same exposure to sunlight to insure that the flowers open up on the plant at the same time.

The berries are bright red, shiny and develop in clusters on the growth made by the plant the previous year. The berries are small--about a 1/3 of an inch in diameter (about half the size of the English holly berry). The berries are deep green as they form on the plant during the summer months but quickly turn shiny red in the fall, as the season begins to turn cold. These berry clusters are quite showy and will last on the plant most of the winter months until they are eaten by the birds in the late winter months or in the early spring.

The blue hollies will grow best in a sunny location to a bit of light morning shade. In moderate shade, the plant will not grow as thick and tends to open up, because the growth stretches for the sunlight, so you will lose some of the original shape and foliage density. Hollies prefer a well-drained moist soil that is rich and fertile. It should also be on the acidic side. The plant is very adaptable to most soils, as long as you condition the soil with compost, animal manure or a good planting mix like the new Black Gold Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Soil that can be purchased by the bag when you purchase your plants at the nursery. Fertilize spring and again in the late fall with  Holly-Tone with Bio-tone nutrients.

Blue hollies will look great in your foundation planting; they can also be used to create an evergreen hedge or barrier. Plant them en masse with other evergreens like rhododendrons, azaleas, andromeda, mountain laurel and other small-leaf ilex plants. The foliage is great for holiday decorating indoor or out and it is long lasting when kept in a vase of water. Now, don't forget that the fruit should be seen on the plant: so place a plant or two where you walk to and from the house daily and enjoy. Those berries are also enjoyed by your songbirds, so place a plant near your feeders and a window to watch the bluebirds, catbirds and mockingbirds enjoy them during the winter months when food becomes scarce. In the early spring, the robins and cardinals will feast on them when they arrive to your home in the early spring.

The best of the blue hollies for you to select are as follows: The original 'BLUE BOY' and 'BLUE GIRL' hollies offer good cold hardiness but need to be sprayed with Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop in the late fall of the year if they are exposed to a lot of wind. When planted in a sunny location, this is necessary for the first couple of winters only.

'BLUE MAID', 'BLUE PRINCESS' and 'BLUE PRINCE' hollies are newer hybrids introduced in 1972 and are more cold- hardy. They all tend to grow more pyramidal naturally; grow to become dense and compact growing plants with deep green foliage. 'Blue Princess' is the most widely grown and the hardiest of the three.

'BLUE STALLION' is the newest male hybrid and flowers longer than the other male hybrids, increasing the chance for heavy berry production. The plant also grows faster than the other male plants. The foliage has more of a purplish color during the winter months and lacks prominent spines on the leaf, no points.

'CHINA BOY' and 'CHINA GIRL' are more bush types; they will grow as wide as they grow tall. The foliage is dark green with little blue to it. They are hardy to -20 degrees and they will tolerate more heat than other varieties of blue hollies. Both plants look great in a foundation planting and the leaf is larger and longer than the other varieties.

When you're doing a bit of planting this spring and summer, please consider these wonderful new hybrid hollies in your garden design. The blue holly family has everything you want in a plant for the garden: great foliage, flowers and fruit. Enjoy!
"I spend my early summer mornings, with the radio very low and half asleep listening to a gardening show"
Frankie Valli

                                          Marinated Watermelon and Cherry Tomatoes

A nice tasting summer salad instead of Potato salad or Pasta salad that will refresh your taste buds on a hot weekend cookout. Great with hamburgers or a nice grilled steak, even shrimp or fresh fish. Serve chilled for the best flavor and if you like a Watermelon Martini, you're in for a treat. 

10 cups of cubed seedless watermelon
cup of fresh lime juice
1 pounds of cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 small red onion sliced thin and cut in half
1 sweet red pepper cut into in squares
3 to 4 fresh radishes sliced thinly
cup of fresh basil leaves torn up
2 tablespoons of olive oil or truffle oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1} Combine the cut up watermelon pieces with lime juice in a large bowl! Let sit, stirring occasionally, at room temperature for 15 minutes. This will absorb the lime juice as it sits.

2} Add the tomatoes, onions, basil, red peppers, radishes, basil, Oil and teaspoon sea salt and teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper and toss and combine. Place in the refrigerator until chilled about hour and serve. Enjoy!

3}If you like Feta Cheese you could add a cup to the salad and even a cup of chopped Walnut or dried cranberries, it's up to you. Enjoy!

Day to look forward to:

June 14th - Flag Day is 11 days
June 16th - Paul's Birthday is 13 days
June 19th - Father's day is 16 days
July 4th -  Independence Day is 33 days

Keep records will make you a better gardener!!


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!        Supplies are now limited!


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