Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas trees

This year, as every year, I went into the woods with my daughter and we cut five naturally growing small balsam firs at the edge of our woods.  Then I stuck all 5 in one large planter and ran the branches from each tree trough those of the others so they looked natural and I have quite a nice looking groves of trees.   I think it's prettier than the sheared tight Christmas trees you can buy and I would personally never have a fake tree.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


We are getting some very beautiful new Epimedium in here.  My favorite might be the yellow one: E. x versicolor 'Sulphureum' but 'Orange Queen' and 'Amber Queen' both seem promising as does the newer variety 'Frohnleiten'- it took quite a bit to figure out the meaning of Frohnleiten- it's a 13th century Austrian town the name of which means open (free) hillside.  All bishop's cap have wonderful foliage and they can take it drier than alot of other shade plants.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

snow on tree branches

Today was so beautiful with new snow sticking on all the tree branches that I had to stop and do a small sketchy painting.  Then at work, I did a small drawing of my the Union Village church where Bertha Brown (my boss) is the pastor.  We did pull out some weed bushes today but it was both cold and wet underfoot so not as fun going as sometimes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Buxus microphylla

This morning at the nursery, while clearing some brush from a hillside, we noticed some boxwood growing as weeds.  Almost any plant can come up by itself, from seed.  I've never seed boxwoods doing it before today- you see or learn something new every day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

clearing brush

At the nursery we are trying to rid the place of some of our autumn olive, Tatarian honeysuckle and buckthorn.  With the ground still unfrozen and no snow, it pretty easy pulling out these invasive weed shrubs with a tractor and chain.  At my house, I'm cutting off little trees that are encroaching on my plantings- shading them. Hopefully, alot of them will die once cut off.  It may not be for much longer, however, that the mild December holds.

Monday, December 5, 2011


I made quite a nice "eco"wreath using only natural biodegradable stuff with no plastic or metal.  The frame is grape vines tied with untreated bailing twine, these were reused from the farm where I live and work in the winters.  The body is twisted-needled white pine (Pinus strobus 'Torulosa') which broke off during our snow storm the day before Thanksgiving and white fir (Abies concolor) which were prunings.  I stuck in some twigs with winterberry for color.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Highgate: Prince Charles' estate

While I was visiting my sister-in-law over the Thanksgivings weekend, I looked through two books by or about Prince Charles.  One was about his views on architecture and included several of his loose, sketch-like water colors.  The other book was about his gardens and landscaping at Highgate.  He turned it into a very beautiful spot incorporating some existing features and having built some beautiful fences and gateways of stumps, some exceedingly tasteful pergolas and other outbuildings (temples?), and  a system to cleanse sewage. He uses lots of compost and is organic in his aproach. He's also interested in rare trees and shrubs.  I don't really follow the comings and goings of the royal family but I'm glad the one of them is a plantsman and artist.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Autumn Olive Elaeagnus umbellata

Even though I know autumn olive is invasive, I bought one 2 years ago for twenty dollars.   I have a collection of different rare and unusual fruit plants and autumn olive makes almost the best juice of all the many kinds I have been making for the last several years.  I believe it was 'Cardinal' which sounded like the biggest fruit, best taste, or most prolific--however I believe that it was the same cultivar that we used to sell at the nursery and that the conservation department used to give out to people.  I spent a couple hours today helping my boss, Elmer pulling them out where they are escaping into the woods- growing from seeds spread by birds.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Today, while I was tipping lilac containers and covering the pots to protect them for the winter, Elmer Brown was pulling out invasive shrubs with the tractor.  Elmer is 84 and started and owns the nursery where we work.  Autumn olive, Tatarian honeysuckle, buckthorn are all over the place and are the result of birds eating the berries of bushes people have planted as ornamentals and we have sold over the years.  It make you think twice about planting such invasive plants.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I'm still on apples and I don't know yet whether mine all were done in by the big freeze we had last week.  aseveral apples I tried had been ruined but my Northern Spy and Wolf River can take more freezing than some other varieties.  I am going to check tonight or tommorow morning.  By the way, over the weekend, I read in the Fedco catalogue the Wolf River is excellent for baked apples and Kelly Marshia at the nursery baked some and they were evidently wonderful,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pinus parviflora

Japanese White Pine is one of the most beautiful evergreens possible.  I noticed ours again today as I was covering potted shrubs for the winter near our specimen which has been doing fine in a frost pocket in Thetford Center, VT for about 40 years.  It gets about 20 to 30 feet rather than 60 to 100 feet which many evergreens get to, and it has a picturesque (wildswept) look - we call that "Japanesey". I noticed today that two sprays, each two feet long had 20 and 30 cones each: that makes it very "coney".  Several severe winters when it probably got 30 to 40 below zero, the needles turned brown in the spring but it came back

Winter Trees

We just had our first real snow this November and the trees are absolutely beautiful.  I don't know whether the deciduous trees out-lined in white which greatly accentuates their form are prettier or the conifers bent under snow.  It's wonderous how their architecture is such that even though they have leaves which can catch and be weighted down by snow, the leaves are needles and the branches flexible enough to bend down and let the snow load off.  Needles hold less snow than broad leaves and in the case the white pine, the needles themselves bend to shed the snow.

Monday, November 21, 2011


It's already mid-late November and the apples are still good : at least the late varieties.  My Wolf River tree is unbelievable this year- it's my favorite for making pies- I plan to make two tonight. I just use a regular recipe but work the dough very little, also I add more shortning than called for.  My other favorite late apple is Northern Spy- I've harvested pails and pails of them already and there are alot more.  We still haven't had a severe enough frost to ruin them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Flower arranging in November

I know it's getting late for flowers around here but there still are berries. I offered to do some large church arrangements for a memorial service this weekend and I'm only a little worried that I won't find enough pretty stuff.  Last week I used mostly winterberry fruit which is excellent this year.  I augmented that with some Rosa multiflora hips, some Japanese barberries and leaves of Forsythia and burning bush.  My wife thought it was very successful- I hope she wasn't just being nice!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dirca palustris

Leatherwood or Dirca palustris is one of our favorite native plants and we finally have alot of them at the nursery.  It blooms quite early and casn take moist soil and shade. Native Americans called it wicopy and used it for rope as it is very strong.  They don't transplant well, root well from cuttings or grow easily from seed so they are hard to come by


More and more of the plants that nurseries have used for so long are being found to be invasive.  We may not selling burning bush any longer- as pretty as it is and as much as I might personally use the foliage in floral arrangements.  We have long since stopped carrying autumn olive and Tatarian honeysuckle although I have found in the last couple of years that autumn olive juice is almost the tastiest  I have made and I even purchased a cultivar which is supposed to have especially good fruit.  Lots Spiraea bumalda and S. japonica come up from seed and this year for the first time, I noticed Hydrangea paniculata seeding in ( in a rich, moist site similar to its native habitat).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

apples galore

Apples are the best they have ever been this year.  Last year, I had 3 or maybe 4 apples due to a severe freeze when the trees were in flower.  Therefore the trees were not at all tired this year and I have bushels and bushels.  I have been making cider on the weekends and hope to again in a couple days.  I found that if I mix different tart varieties and especially wild ones of no variety, I get the best cider.  Now, I don't care as much for commercial cider.  Northern Spy is the only apple I've been using that I know what it is.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Gardens

November can be a bad month for gardening people.  Everything's over and the holidays don't come for a while.  I planted a special garden about 10 years ago to have some color for my wife's birthday which is tomorrow.  It's basically a group of different cultivars of winterberry, Ilex verticilata, our native deciduous holly-  They are outstanding this year.  This far north they turn brown- it is a reddish brown- around Christmas time, but now they are the most beautiful plant at our place.  I also have burning bush(soon to be banned) and Virginia creeper, as well as some European spindle tree, Euonymus europaeus and a paper birch which happened to grow up there.

Friday, November 4, 2011

digging maples

I noticed again, today, something I've often seen.  When trees grow on ledge the roots go out instead of down, making them easier to dig and move.  However, any tree over 6 or 8 inches in diameter can hardly be considered easy to dig and move.  Sugar maples dig quite well in the fall- the ground is moist and there are no leaves to suck water out of the tree-  alos there are lots of them every where.  I would think more people would dig them up from the woods rather than buying them from a nursery.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

home is where the heart is

We just made it back from the upper-midwest, home of very deep, very black topsoil.  It just isn't as beautiful as Vermont.  I think it's mostly because of all the people- not that I think people are ugly.  There are an awful lot of shopping centers.  And as far as the wonderful deep soil with no stones--I transplanted one bush only in the last week and it was in a rock pile and I didn't have my spade. We saw several sandhill cranes which are one of my favorite birds

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Down with Rhamnus

I've decided that buckthorn is the worst invasive, alien shrub in the USA.  1500 miles from home where buckthorn has taken over large areas, it has taken over large areas.  In parks, along roads and lakes in Minneapolis it's glossy black berries are everywhere ready to be eaten and spread by birds. I think I saw it all over in Illinois also. I hate it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

On the Road again...

  I'm on vacation moving my daughter from Brooklyn, NY to Minneapolis, MN and on the way taking a cat from Vermont to central Illinois to give to my ex.  The topsoil in both Illinois and Minnesota is unbelievable: black and deep and good. 
  The prettiest plants in the tall grass prairies of Illinois are the Silphiums. Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) has interesting leathery leaves, even when they dry up and turn brown.  Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum) has really neat looking, cut leaves.
  The tall grasses themselves are beautiful now.  My favorite tree I'm seeing everywhere in Minnesota is the Burr Oak or Quercus macrocarpa.

Friday, October 28, 2011

punkin chunkin

check out where the Browns and Pomeroys will be from November 2 thru Nov 8th



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Now I lay me down to sleep...

My oh my, what do you do with all these plants?... a question I hear repeated throughout the season, and a question I have probably answered 1000 times. It seems to me that our human nature is to be inquisitive, to relate and understand how things work, even in the ever "so cool" nursery business.
Here goes....we first have to inventory all the plants in the nursery--every single one!!! Then we carefully turn all the plants in containers on their sides, close together and stack them up to 3 pots high. When all the plants are grouped, packed and stacked, we cover the piles with large pieces of overwintering fabric. This fabric is essentially a large woven blanket that is maybe 1/8" thick and helps insulate the plants. After the fabric goes down the pile is then covered with a layer of white plastic. The plastic mustbe white since it reflects the sun...clear or black plastic absorbs the sunlight and heats up the plants too much during the winter. Once layered, the fabric and plastic is secured with small pea stone and tires so that the winter winds and snow does not get inside and blow everything away. All of this takes us about a painstaking month!
After all the plants are "snug as a bug in a rug" under their warm environment...our much needed layoff begins. Our bodies and minds are ready for a 4 month re-energizing so that in the spring we can start up all over again.
The end is in site...only a couple more weeks of this "phun" to be had then off to the slopes for me!!!
See ya in the spring.   **** KELLY***

Monday, October 24, 2011

Apocaliptic warm weather

This fall it's staying warm so late that all sorts of plants are acting different than normal. Lemon Lights Azaleas, Apples and forsythiaq are blooming all blooming in the Upper Valley, Actually some spring flowering plants are being fooled into blooming when there is a dry period followed by a period of plentiful rain--we've certainly had that-- and warm weather.
This year I've also noticed certain very late blooming Cimicifugas'('White Pearl' I beleive) blooming when it normally doesn't because the season is too short...the same can be said for some of the hardy Mums. Heptacodium micronoides, Seven-son flower, is incrediably beautiful this fall because it has not been zapped by the normal September-October frosts, Their sepals (collectively the calyx) turn brilliantly red and are especially ornamental.
Houseplants(that spend the summer outdoors) and annuals are still hanging in there-in certain locations. In West Newbury, where I live, my peas are still blooming and my Aristolochia gigantea (Brazilian Dutchmans Pipe) is budded(it's still outside)!!

Hardy Bartlett Pears?

Since I've never read a "blog"--pardon me if I don't know how they are "meant" to sound.

This week I learned that Bartlett pears, which we have been selling for years, are probably good and hardy for this climate, even though they are not quite as hardy as the rest of the other pears we sell and they may not do in northern Saskatuwon!. Also, they are very poor pollinators for other pears. So when planting pears remember that you can grow Barletts here in most places but do not not use them to pollinate others. When planting with a Bartlett, you need a minimum of 3 pears, the Bartlett and two other different varieties. However, I have seen and tasted plenty of Bartlett Pears growing far from any other pears...go figure!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

we're blogging now!!!!!

good golly miss molly....the wheels are off the rails..... we're on the blogging train to nowhere!!!!