The heat and lack of rainfall will make your Hydrangea plants wilt!


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Sambucus "Black Beauty"

My son Patrick called me, all excited about a new shrub that he had just received at the nursery where he works, Northeast Nursery in Peabody, Mass. He told me that the new shrub was developed in England, called Sambucus 'Black Beauty' that was hardy to zone 4 and colder.

Living in southern Maine, it is not always possible to grow everything new that is hybridized, as our winter temperatures do occasionally dip to minus 20 degrees or colder. Patrick told me the plant looked like a Japanese maple at first glance and the foliage was an intense purple-black color.

Patrick knew how I like plants that had several qualities to them; this plant had plenty to offer, with dramatic foliage, large flower clusters made up of small individual pink flowers during late June and purple berries in the fall. He put the biggest plant to one side for me until I could get down to the nursery to purchase it--and today, after six years in my garden, it is magnificent! A real eye-catching shrub in my garden.

Let me tell you about it, because you're going to like this plant. The foliage is unique, with a deep purple-black color to it and also has a wonderful shine. Each leaf is made up of five individual leaflets--much like a rose leaf. Each leaflet is 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and oval, with a rather long point. The edge of the leaflet is lined with tiny teeth like a saw blade. The leaflets are on a stem 3 to 5 inches long and are arranged with one on the tip of the stem and two pairs of leaflets opposite each other on the stem.

When the leaves first develop, they are bright green but quickly darken up as they grow and mature. The new growth stands out on the plant, as the mature foliage is dark purple-black.

The stems of the plant are dark gray, with small 1/4" spots all over the stems. The plant will make 2 to 3 feet of new growth each season, if not pruned. This wonderful plant will grow 6 to 8 feet tall and just as wide, so give it plenty of room to grow in your garden. You can prune each spring to control the size of the plant or train it into a small tree. I tried pruning it in the fall 2 years ago to control the size and found much winter kill when spring arrived, so I now prune in the spring only.

The plant does grow quickly the first year in your garden, so let the new growth develop to a couple of feet tall and then pinch off the tip of each branch just above a leaf. This will force new growth to develop, often making two new branches where you pinched the plant, and your plant will quickly thicken. The flowers develop on this new growth made on last year's wood, so the pinching will prevent flowers from forming on the plant, but it is well worth waiting an extra year for the flowers in order to develop a thick, bushy-looking plant.

The following year, wait for the flower buds to form on the plant first and then pinch the tips of all non-flowering branches to make the plant even thicker and control the size of the plant. Stop pinching the plant by August first, so the plant will have time to make flower buds on the plant for next year.

The flower buds begin to form in early June in large flat clusters on the tips of the branches and quickly open up displaying a beautiful rosy pink flower. Each individual flower is 1/4" in diameter, has 5 flower petals, 5 pollen sacks and a swollen center that will soon develop into a dark purple fruit 1/4" in diameter in the late summer.

The flowers last for 3 to 4 weeks on the plant and the pink flowers and purple-black foliage make a wonderful contrast. Songbirds love this fruit, and when the it ripens in late August, you will often hear much noise from your plant as the birds compete to eat the fruit.

Plant 'Black Beauty' in a full sun garden for the best foliage color, although it will grow in a bit of shade--just with less colorful foliage. The fall color stays the same and falls from the plant as purple-black leaves.

The plant will grow best in a moist rich soil but will tolerate a dry soil if you condition the soil when planting. When you plant always add compost, animal manure, or peat moss to help the roots develop quickly. Use mycorrhizae fertilizer and Soil Moist Granules to help soil retain moisture and stimulate root development,especially if planting during the summer months.

I have had very few insect or disease problems with this plant. I know you will like this plant for the unique foliage color, its contrasting flowers, and its much-sought-after fruit that will attract song birds to your garden. You can also collect the berries for homemade jellies, pies, juice...and even wine.

'Black Beauty' is a wonderful plant to use for hedges, screens, as a specimen plant, as a background plant for a flower border, or a focal point plant in your garden. Enjoy!
Rod Stewart - Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Official Video)
Rod Stewart
 Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Official Video)

Great Star
White Diamond

I remember when I was 10 years old and we took a family ride to visit our grandparents who lived in Bangor, Maine. It was not a long ride from central Maine, where we lived, to northern Maine and it was always fun to see our grandparents and play with my grandfather's pool table in his basement. It was early August and one of the reasons we went was to cut some beautiful hydrangea flowers from their two hydrangea trees for my mother.

My mother loved these wonderful flowers and kept them in a vase of water for several weeks and then removed them from the vase to dry in our garage for use in a dried flower wreath for the front door. I remember helping my mother cut the stems nice and long so the flowers could go into her special vase. This year the flowers were huge, almost like a football in size and shape, and my mother was very excited. Nobody knew the name or type of the hydrangea tree, it was just a hydrangea tree, and it was beautiful.

Nine years later I was off to college to learn about plants. During a bi-weekly field trip around campus to look at plants, identify them, some with or without leaves, we came across the hydrangea tree like my grandparents had in their back yard and I got a chance to finally find out its real name. My teacher called it a Hydrangea Paniculata Grandiflora or "peegee" hydrangea, for short, and the mystery was solved. When I was in college in the late 60's and before, the white hydrangea was the king of hydrangeas--not the pink/blue types we have today. Pink and blue hydrangeas lived from Cape Cod south and if you lived north of Cape Cod you grew the white varieties. At that time you had few choices of hydrangea: the peegee bush, a tree form like my grandparents' or the shrub type called 'Annabelle' hydrangea, with big round flowers that did not dry very well, but were beautiful when in bloom.

Today the white Hydrangea Paniculata hybrids are beginning to take over the hydrangea market and are being planted in gardens all over New England---especially Northern New England--because of their hardiness and the new and exciting hybrids available. I have two new favorite hydrangea varieties for you to enjoy and plant in your yard this summer. My favorite is called hydrangea "White Diamond" and I like it so much that I planted 10 in a row along my front walkway to create a hedge for summer color. This wonderful hydrangea will grow 4 to 5 feet tall and just as wide but with a spring pruning you can keep it at any height you want--and it ALWAYS flowers, starting in mid-July and lasting well into October no matter how hard you cut back the plant in early spring, and it remains white longer than most other varieties.

The plant is very showy and the panicle-shaped flowers are unique because they contain both male and female flowers in the same flower cluster. The male flowers are large, 4 petaled (1 to 1 -1/2 inches across with unique sunken white veins running through them. They begin as a pale green color but quickly turn bright powdery white in color. These flowers are also called sterile flowers and they fill the flower cone with color. The female flower is very different looking, because it resembles a 5-sided rounded hat about 1/4" in diameter and grows in groups around the male flowers. The female flowers are considered fertile--and will make seeds. I think the best way to describe the cone shaped flowers is to say it looks like a small Christmas tree with layers of both types of flowers that fill the cone.

Unlike my grandparents' hydrangea flowers these are much smaller in size--3 to 6 inches tall and 4 to 5 inches wide at the base before going to a point on the tip. The one thing that makes the White Diamond hydrangea so beautiful is the large quantity of bold conical flowers that grow on the end of every branch and they cover the entire plant. The foliage is dark green, oval with a point. They do not change color in the fall like other shrubs and trees but the flowers are still in bloom, so who needs colorful foliage? The branches have smooth gray bark and are not special looking but they are strong and will hold up in heavy snow unlike the other types of hydrangea, which break easily. The long strong stems make the flowers perfect for cutting, and every home should have a vase full of flowers right now.

'White Diamond' is a multi-stem plant with many stem types on every plant. The plant will grow 12" to 18" every summer before the flowers arrive. Some of the branches grow upright while others grow sideways and some even weep over, giving the plant an interesting shape. Another great quality of this plat is that it will require a lot less water during the summer months than the ball hydrangea types. They will grow in full direct sun all day to part shade and I consider them drought resistant as they use less than half of the water needed by the ball types.

The plant is very hardy and will even grow in zone 3--which gets down to minus 40 degrees--if you cover the ground with a good thick layer of bark mulch or compost 3 inches thick. Fertilize every spring in April with Plant Tone  to encourage additional flowers. The plant prefers to grow in average to rich soil, so be sure to add compost, animal manure or seaweed kelp when planting help establish the plants quickly. Tests from nurseries have shown that the plant will also do quite well in a city and will tolerate pollution without damage to the plant. In the fall, as the cold weather arrives and frost frequents your yard, the flowers will turn parchment brown and last on the plant for most of the winter. If you have room for just one new plant this summer in your garden plant the "White Diamond" hydrangea, you will love it all summer long.

This spring I planted a new variety of the Hydrangea Paniculata called 'Great Star' hydrangea; I love the look of this unusual plant. The flower is unique and if you love hydrangeas I guarantee you have never seen anything like the flowers on this plant, which was found in Normandy, France, growing in the garden of Princess Sturdza. The only word to describe this hydrangea flower is "elegant." Its flowers are clusters of creamy white wavy star-shape blooms that grow up to 4 inches long. Each of the 4 flower petals is 2 inches long but only 3/4 of an inch wide--almost in the shape of a cross. Now these are the male or sterile flowers outside the flower cluster and you will also find female or fertile flower petals inside the flower cluster. Now think about this, a flower cluster like a bouquet of large 4 inch wavy star shape flowers that surround the small 5 sided hat-shapes female flower inside the bouquets. Each flower cluster will grow to be 6 to 8 inches in diameter. They make great cut flowers and they also dry well.

The flowers last well into the fall. Compared to the 'White Diamond' hydrangea, the flowers do not last as long in the cold weather but when in flower from July to October it is beautiful. The plant will grow larger--up to 6 to 7 feet tall and wide. It is not quite as hardy as 'White Diamond' but it will tolerate minus 30 degrees below zero when mulched heavy. This plant will grow wonderfully in full sun to partial shade in average to well-conditioned soil--as long as it is well drained. Both plants have no serious insect or disease problems.

Plant as a single plant up against a large evergreen for a wonderful background of evergreen foliage or set them 5 feet apart in a row to create a wonderful tall growing privacy hedge or noise barrier. Both the 'White Diamond' and the 'Great Star' hydrangeas will do very well when planted in large containers on a patio or deck --and if you have a pool these are a "must" plant if you like color all summer long. Who needs annual flowers when you have these two new hydrangeas for color? To me the flower cluster looks like a wedding blue and pink hydrangeas, move over because 'White Diamond' and 'Great Star' hydrangeas are here to stay. If you live north of Cape Cod say to yourself: No hassle, no special demands, no special care, less watering, and they flower every year no matter how harsh the winter is or when you prune them. Now plant one--and enjoy the flowers all summer long!
B J Thomas --- Rain drops keep falling on my head { 1970 }
B J Thomas --- Raindrops keep falling on my head
{ 1970 }
Rose of Sharon

As the warm days of summer begin to encourage our shrubs to excite us with color, let us consider the Rose of Sharon plant for your yard and garden this year. The Rose of Sharon is considered an old-fashioned flowering plant and has been planted and grown around our home for many generations of gardeners. The Rose of Sharon is a unique summer flowering plant because it can grow as a shrub, a small tree or a hedge plant. The flowers begin to open in July and continue to bloom well into September. The flowers are funnel shaped and 4 to 5 inches across. If you have a Rose of Sharon growing on your property, look at your plant when it is raining outside, because the flowers will close to protect themselves.

The Rose of Sharon grows as a multi-stemmed plant, upright-growing on stiff branches. The leaves grow 2 to 4 inches long and the leaf has three lobes. The leaves are medium green and have no shine to them--they are almost dull in appearance. The leaves start almost at the ground and continue to the top of the plant. The flower colors will range from white, pink, red, blue and purple. Some of the new hybrids have double flowers resembling a carnation. Some of the new single varieties are two-toned with a darker center called a "flower eye." The flowers will last for over a week but when a flower fades, it's quickly replaced with other flowers, keeping the plant in continuous flower. The flowers come on the new growth made that spring, so if you can prune them in March or April, you will encourage new growth on the plant and more flowers during the summer.

Pruning the top of the plant will encourage the plant to grow wider and become fuller looking. The Rose of Sharon will grow 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide, but if you prune each spring the plant can be kept smaller--as low as 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. If you plant Rose of Sharon plants on 6 to 7 foot centers, they will fill in quickly, creating a thick hedge for privacy, a noise barrier, and a wind break. Prune plants yearly in the early spring when first planted-- even if they are only 3 feet tall at the time. If not pruned, the plant will grow like a column-tall and narrow. When the individual plants are pruned regularly, the individual branches become stronger and can handle snow during the winter better. Plant a row of Rose of Sharon on your property line instead of installing a fence this year. Allow the plant to grow to whatever height you want and both you and your neighbor will enjoy a privacy hedge full of flowers the entire summer.

Rose of Sharon will grow best in a full sun area but will also flower in partial shade. The plant will grow best in a soil with good organic matter, so be sure to use compost or animal manure when you plant. Fertilize in the spring with Plant-Tone organic fertilizer to keep the plant strong and encourage more flowers. If the weather gets dry and hot, weekly watering will help keep the plant happy. Soil pH does not affect the flower production or growth of the plant. Insects and disease are rarely a problem, so the only real maintenance is the spring pruning. As the flowers fade, the plant will make many seeds that can fall to the ground and start new plants next spring. These new seedlings can easily be transplanted to your garden, where they will mature and grow strong in just a few years.
"Adam was a gardener and God who made him sees that half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees"
Rudyard Kipling

                                              Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

With the blueberry season coming along now, let us go picking or pick up some fresh picked berries at your local farm stand or supermarket. Blueberry pies are great but you will find this very tasty when topped with additional fresh berries a big scoop of vanilla Ice cream on the side or top. All I can say is move over, upside down pineapple cake.


2 cups of fresh blueberries
cup of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of freshly grated lemon rind
1/3 cup of softened butter
1 cup of granulated sugar
3 extra-large or jumbo eggs
teaspoon almond extract, unless you have nut allergies?
cup of whole milk
2 cups of all-purpose flower
4 teaspoons of baking powder
teaspoon salt
cup of toasted slivered almonds or walnuts, check for nut allergies?
Sweetened whip cream
1 cup of fresh blueberries for topping


1} Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix your 2 cups of blueberries, cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and lemon rind: spread evenly in a greased and flowered 9-inch glass cake pan.

2} Beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar until fluffy: beat the eggs and extracts. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt: beat into a creamy mixture alternating with milk until just moistened. Pour over the blueberries. Bake for 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

3} Use a butter knife and run it around the edges of the pan too free the edges of the cake, just in case it has stuck to the glass pan. Place a serving plate over the top of your cake pan. Carefully invert the cake and plate together. Remove the pan and add the extra cup of Blueberries over the cooked blueberries and firm in place gently for a great show piece.

 Serve warm with sweetened whip cream or a scoop of Ice Cream if desired. Leftovers can be refrigerated. Enjoy!
Days to look forward 

July 27th - Take Your Plants for a Walk Day is in 7 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.


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1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
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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

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