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Promises, Promises: GBBD, February 2020

February 16, 2020

apple blossom openingFor weeks, several of my potted amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs have been promising to provide winter blooms as an antidote to the snowy landscape outdoors. In my cool winter house, the flowers are slow to develop inside their buds, and the stems get very tall during this process. I was amazed one year, when I went away for the holidays and left several potted bulbs in the care of a co-worker who kept them in her overheated office, to come back in early January and find that they were already blooming – and on much shorter stems.

Today, the flowers on Hippeastrum ‘Apple Blossom’ finally opened, making good on the promise of those buds. This is a beautiful flower, well worth the wait, and I love the fact that its pollen is pink.

apple blossom flower apple blossom anthers

This bud only contained two flowers, instead of the usual four, which probably means that it is time for me to repot the bulb into some fresh soil. While I enjoy the flowers of ‘Apple Blossom,’ I am keeping an eye on the developing buds of ‘Charisma,’ ‘Red Lion,’ and ‘Green Goddess,’ all of which should open in the weeks to come.

amaryllis buds 2020

Meanwhile, my faithful potted cyclamen continue to bloom their hearts out.

cyclamen february 2020

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see other gardeners’ February blooms.

Year Five of My Six-Year Front Garden Project

January 25, 2020

imageAttentive long-time readers may have noticed that my five-year front garden project has now morphed into a six-year front garden project. That is because I accomplished so little in year five.

When the 2019 garden season began, the tasks required to finish this project seemed quite doable: (1) plant a row of shrubs across the front of the property, and create a perennial border between those shrubs and the grassy path; (2) create a small woodland border above the shrubbery between the grassy path and the woods; and (3) replace the battered and kitschy “wishing well” cover over my well with something like a fake rock that will blend in with the landscape. Almost none of this got done.

What happened? I think I had trouble getting moving on this after the big push of getting both the shrubbery and the front slope (a total of about 1000 square feet) finished in year four. I suffered a similar lack of motivation the year after I finished the side slope garden. (See New Front Garden: Year 3 Progress Report.)

This year, my motivational slump was exacerbated by uncooperative weather.  A rainy spring that lasted well into June put me behind on all my garden chores and delayed getting started on the front border project. (I was still trying to finish routine May garden chores the first week in July.) Then July turned hot, too hot for me to be out doing heavy work. The result was that I didn’t really get started on the front garden tasks until August.

With summer already turning into autumn, I scaled back my goals and focused just on getting the row of shrubs planted along the front property line.  I removed existing vegetation, including digging out several scraggly lilacs that had never been happy in this location and a volunteer aspen that had snuck in and established itself among the lilacs. Then I got to work amending the soil in a strip six feet wide by thirty feet long. By mid-September I was ready to get plants in the ground, and I took advantage of the fall sale at a local nursery to get what I wanted.

I chose native shrubs that are well suited to my sandy soil, two northern bayberry (Morella caroliniensis) and two beach plums (Prunus maritima).

front border shrubs

I planted these on the property line. The area between the shrubs and the dirt road will be left wild; native plants already growing there include wild strawberries and dewberries, bluets, goldenrods, flax-leafed aster, and sweetfern. The area between the row of shrubs and the grassy path will become a perennial border, and the existing circular bed at the turn into my driveway will be dismantled and incorporated into this border.

I already have many of the plants I intend to include in the new front border, and I will spend time over the winter designing it. I hope to get the soil amended in spring and early summer, with the goal of getting plants in the ground by the end of June. That will leave several months of good gardening weather that I can use to create the new woodland border and to replace the well cover. When all that is done, my five six-year front landscaping project will be complete.

Winter Blooms to Warm a Snowy Day: GBBD, January 2020

January 15, 2020


streaked cyclamen 2020Although the days are beginning to lengthen again after the winter solstice, my Maine garden is entering the coldest, snowiest weeks of winter, with three snowstorms this week. The garden is tucked in under a blanket of snow, enjoying its long winter nap.

pink cyclamen 2020At this time of year, I look to brightly colored indoor blooms for warmth and cheer; and my potted cyclamen (Cyclamen persica) almost never disappoint. On a sunny day, the reflective qualities of the snow magnify the light and the backlit flower petals glow like flames.

amaryllis first bud 2020As I enjoy the blooms on cyclamen, the first flower buds have appeared on my potted amaryllis bulbs (Hippeastrum), promising more dramatic blooms in the weeks ahead.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to enjoy January blooms from many gardeners.

A New Year for an Inconstant Blogger

December 31, 2019

Cover 2020I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but I do enjoy using the New Year as an opportunity to get organized and make a fresh start. One of the places I’d like to get a fresh start is with this blog, where I have been an inconstant blogger this past year. The problem has not been with finding things to write about, but with making the time to write. The new year would be a good time to refresh my blog theme with a more current image from my garden and to recommit myself to at least two (and preferably three) posts per month.

While I get myself organized for a new year of blogging, here are some images from the past year in my garden as assembled in this year’s Jean’s Garden gift calendar for family and friends. (Click on any image to enlarge.)

January 2020 February 2020



March 2020 April 2020



May 2020 June 2020



July 2020

August 2020



September 2020 October 2020



November 2020 December 2020



Copies of this calendar can be purchased from

Happy New Year!

A Single Bloom: GBBD, November 2019

November 16, 2019

snowy garden november 2019Unseasonably cold temperatures and our first snowfall of the winter have brought an end to this year’s outdoor garden season. At the same time, though, the flowering houseplants that provide my winter gardening fix are not quite in season. My potted amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs are still boxed up in the basement for their period of enforced dormancy. And while my potted cyclamen are full of buds, they have not yet begun their winter flowering.

Fortunately, the first bud on my Thanksgiving cactus (Schumbergera truncata) opened this week, giving me a single flower (but, oh, what an extravagant flower!) for bloom day.

Thanksgiving cactus bloom

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a monthly celebration of flowers hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see other garden bloggers’ November blooms.

Late Bloomers and Falling Leaves: GBBD, October 2019

October 18, 2019

fallen leaves 2019In the month since I posted last, my part of Maine has had at least three mornings of below freezing temperatures and light frost. Cold-sensitive plants like morning glories, basil, and coleus have shriveled up and turned black. Garden paths are carpeted with fallen leaves from deciduous trees, and many perennial plants are also showing their progression into winter dormancy with brightly colored foliage.

fall foliage 2019

But just as early-blooming crocuses and daffodils are unfazed by spring snows, there are late bloomers in the garden who shrug off fall frosts. This is especially true of the asters and their relatives in the extended Asteraceae family. So, even as we move inexorably toward winter, I am still enjoying garden flowers.

In the entry garden, smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) ‘Bluebird’ is blooming in the Blues Border, Bluebird with bees
alma potschke 2019
and the New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) cultivar ‘Alma Potschke’ is flowering near the front porch.

On the Front Slope, seed-grown New England asters are blooming in various shades of pink, lavender and violet.

lavender seed-grown aster violet seed-grown aster

Some of the flowers blooming in the October garden have been blooming for many weeks.

Coreopsis lanceolata began flowering in late June, coreopsis lanceolata october
Herbstsonne october 2019 and Rudbeckia x ‘Herbstsonne’ in early August.

vernonia lettermanniiIn contrast, Vernonia lettermannii ‘Iron Butterfly’ has just begun to bloom. Along the side of the driveway, the fringy yellow flowers of our native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) are also beginning to open.witch hazel flowers

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a monthly virtual gathering of garden bloggers hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month (although some of us habitually show up late). Visit her blog to see her own and others’ October blooms.

Aster Season: GBBD, September 2019

September 18, 2019

Ionactis linarifolia clumpI’m several days late with my Bloom Day post this month.

As we passed the Labor Day weekend, it seemed as though a weather switch was activated, bringing cool temperatures and an autumnal feel to my Maine garden. Blooms on the tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) that are the glory of the August garden are now fading, and members of the greater Asteraceae family have taken the stage. These include composite flowers like Coreopsis and Rudbeckia, but also flowers of Liatris and the many species of goldenrod (Solidago) that bloom around the edges of my garden.


Although the daylily (Hemerocallis) season is largely over, there are still a few last buds waiting to open on late varieties like ‘Richard’, ‘Chewonki,’ ‘Autumn Minaret’, ‘Final Touch’ and ‘Rosy Returns.’ I even have one daylily, the very late-blooming ‘Sandra Elizabeth’ that has not yet opened its first bud.

late daylilies

I still have three species of Monarda in bloom. The scarlet M. didyma is a favorite of hummingbirds preparing to migrate. Its flowers, along with those of M. fistulosa and M. punctata are also loved by native bees (not surprising given their common name of “beebalm”).

red Monarda Monarda punctata September

Sedums come into their own in September, and these have been a favorite nectar source for my amazing bumper crop of monarch butterflies. (I have seen six newly-emerged butterflies in my garden in the past four days, all but one from chrysalises that I never noticed until I found a butterfly hanging on the empty chrysalis case drying its wings.)

sedum autumn fire 2019 monarch on sedum

Ionactis linarifolia with phloxBut the stars of the September garden are the true asters. The first of these to bloom in my garden is the flax-leaved aster (Ionactis linarifolia). This is a native wildflower that grows happily in my property’s sandy soil, and I have transplanted  several into the front slope garden. This one has seeded itself into a clump of moss phlox (Phlox subulata). It will be interesting to see if these plants can peacefully coexist in shared space. I hope so, since the phlox blooms in spring and the aster in fall.

The flax-leaved aster has been followed by a number of other wild asters that grow around the edges of my garden and occasionally pop up as self-sown seedlings in flower beds.

heart-leaved aster 2019 white aster 2019

But my favorite aster is our native New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), which has just begun to bloom this week. For several years now, I have been growing the popular nursery cultivar, ‘Alma Potschke’ in the porch border, but I am not a fan of its coral color (and I notice that the native bees also avoid it if they have other choices). I much prefer the purple-pink color range of the wild asters. This past year, I planted eight seed-grown New England asters on the front slope, and I am eager to see what variety of colors I will get in their flowers as they bloom for the first time this year.

Front Slope NE asters

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see September blooms from other gardens.