An evening with Fine Gardening magazine

February 5th, 2014 – 7:00 PM

Well that sucked.

An overnight ice storm crippled us, but we were fortunate enough to not lose power like so many others in the area. The inch or so of ice on top of the snow from Monday makes for a good time outside. The poor dog can’t find her footing or a good spot to take care of her business.

All of my trees are painfully covered in ice, but the young River Birch trees are suffering the most.      

But I cannot bear to talk about the weather any longer. It is what it is. And that is my deep analysis for the day.

Time to move on.

I’ve been sitting on a copy of the “Fine Gardening” December issue for a few weeks now (yes, I did receive it way too late, but I’m over it now). I needed to pick the right moment to sit down with it and really allow myself to get lost in it all. A bathroom read wouldn’t suffice. I wanted to attack the magazine as a true escape, without any distractions. Tonight was the night to do just that.

With coffee in hand, television off and the rest of the family otherwise engaged, I am ready to jump into a world of ornamental grasses, native shrubs, fantastic foliage and even some pronunciation studies. 

Even though I haven’t formally researched it, I’m fairly certain that this advertisement below is always on the first five or so pages of every Fine Gardening issue.    

All we need is love. Ha. More like all we need is the lottery. But I digress.

Every time I see this ad, I wander off into a dream of owning my own greenhouse. Seriously, imagine one large enough for tables and chairs so meals could be eaten in there during the winter? I could even build a formal path that leads to it from the house. And have it lined with a variety of different grasses. I can dream of housing like twenty seven citrus trees that bear fruit all winter. This would be the solution to my seasonal affect disorder. I wonder if my insurance would cover that cost?

But what if I made such an investment and the ice, like we have now, destroyed it? I’d be devastated. The money could have gone towards the kids college fund or our retirement. The family would disown me and I’d be slumming it in my ’99 Honda Civic.     

Dream over. Back to more realistic dreaming.

I love Viburnums. I love the foliage, the shrub shape, the scented blooms, the some times appearance of berries and the fall color. So when I see mention of a viburnum I’ve never heard of, I am all in.             

This is Viburnum ‘Eskimo’ and I am intrigued by the phrase “its deer resistant leaves are semievergreen”. Hmmm. Would this occur in my zone, 6B? Color me intrigued. Now to find a company that sells it online.

This photo on page 21 jumped off the page and pulled me right in. Beautiful contrast and form and texture.

But now I’m angry as it reminds me of how many Cotinus (Smoke Bush) I have killed over the years. I could never replicate anything close to this. Unless we move. Which right now sounds unbelievable. I hate New Jersey right now.

Here we go a few pages later. Always a good headline.

Let’s page through to my ‘hood, the Northeast.

There are a lot of intriguing native plant choices here but I am now fixated on Summersweet. This shrub is really the key to my landscape the more I think about it.  It is one of the few shrubs that has truly thrived for me considering my poorly draining soil and deer issues. I have ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Ruby Spice’ and really should think about adding a lot more of these.

Now if I could find an evergreen shrub that the deer ignore and handles wet soil …

It’s February so this headline is dead to me.

And here we go. This is the big kahuna.

This is directly in my wheelhouse. Some tried and true trials and the results.

Let’s see what grasses we are adding to the off season shopping list:

Pennisetum ‘Red Head’ – bloom colors look phenomenal

Molinia ‘Cordoba’ – 7 feet tall with “larger than life presence”

Andropogon ‘Indian Warrior’ – “sturdy stems pointing skyward” but no wet soil. Have to rethink this.

Andropogon ‘Red October’ – Fall color is ridiculous. Wow.

Bouteloua ‘ Blonde Ambition’ – “Full size in one summer” and those seedheads. Let’s do this.

The full listing of the trial results could take up my entire night as I see many of the grasses I’ve struggled with in the past did not perform well. Makes me feel a little bit better. And as expected, my personal favorite Panicum ‘Northwind’ scored off the charts. Will need to divide a few of these this spring.

Moving on.

Amen. A mantra I live by.

Pruning of fruit trees. I love this level of detail and do my best to memorize it so I can then use that knowledge at the next cocktail party I attend.  

Of course I can’t remember the last cocktail party I attended. And I don’t have a fruit tree to prune.

Finally we get to the end of the issue and it is time to test my Latin speaking knowledge. I consider myself rather fluent in plant latinese, but every once in a while I find one that I have had wrong for years. It didn’t take long to find one this evening. Starting right off in the “A’s” listing.       

I had no friggin idea that the correct pronunciation is “ah-SKLEE-pee-us”. I have been confidently pronouncing it as “ah-SLEP-ee-us” for the longest time. Somewhere there is someone who heard me say it that way and I no doubt lost all credibility with them. I am crushed. I can’t even look any further down the list for fear of landing in a deep depression.

And we are done.

I managed to forget about the disaster outside for an hour or so. I am sitting on two additional Fine Gardening issues that I haven’t opened yet but will dive into those at another time. My next mission is to purchase those grasses at a decent price.

Good times.          

7 thoughts on “An evening with Fine Gardening magazine

  1. Modern Mia

    Hey, you can learn how to prune fruit trees for me. Then you and the family can come visit us and you can prune my fruit trees. We don’t have snow all that often (like once every 5 years). So come during pruning time, ok?

  2. Amy at love made my home

    I so enjoy reading your posts John, because you always make me smile with what you say, we have no planting in common because we live in such different places, but I like reading how you muse over different things. Now, re the pronunciation thing, how about this, I have a good friend who is an avid gardener, who announces loudly and often that they hate people using latin names for plants and then we go round a garden centre or nursery and what do they do, call everything by the latin names!! It is no use to me, as I can’t remember them and then I can’t remember the plants they recommended to me!! Just call them what you know is my reckoning!! Hope that the ice goes soon.

  3. Jane Scunthorpe

    A good way to escape your unbelievably atrocious weather ! Interesting thoughts/ article on grasses … I thought it was just me under performing ! I decided to give over a whole portion of my garden solely to grasses and in my head it looked fantastic, with amazing grasses rippling in the breeze. In reality it looked ok for about 3 weeks in the year and very sad and sorry for the rest! So, out it all came …
    I will look out for ‘Panicum Northwind’. The only 2 I kept and still enjoy are ‘Festuca’ and ‘Molinia’ (don’t know varieties).

  4. Sarah/ Galloping Horse Garden

    Funny post. Have you tried Leucothoe fontanesiana as an evergreen, wet-tolerant, deer resistant plant? They claim it is all that. I have a wet yard and killed one, but I can’t blame it on either the deer or the wet. Totally my fault.

  5. Anonymous

    Oh dear God! Please continue to garden blog forever. I won’t survive a single winter without your humor.

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