Tag Archives: Fine Gardening

Fine Gardening Saves the Day

I spent the early part of this past week in Southfield, Michigan for my “day job”. By the time Wednesday evening rolled around, I was exhausted. Not because of the work, but because of my complete inability to sleep comfortably in a hotel room.

I don’t know if this lack of solid sleep is from the fear of oversleeping, missing my own bed or the effort to fight off the onset of claustrophobia in a stale and dank hotel room. Probably a mix of all three.

By the time I then navigate back to the airport, drop off the rental car, take the shuttle to my gate, check in and slog my way through security, I just want to crawl into the fetal position in my impossibly small seat on the plane and doze off.

Of course, there is always “that guy” sitting next to you on the plane who wants to chat. As I stuffed my 6 foot 3 inch frame into my seat Wednesday night and awaited the arrival of my way-too-close-for- comfort neighbor, I could sense immediately that the dude walking down the aisle was going to be one of the “them”.

Anyone who is playing air guitar while entering a plane is going to want to talk. That is a well known fact. And that is exactly what my soon to be companion on the flight was doing as he navigated the aisle on the plane. I could see him counting the rows of seats in advance and then when he realized where row 26 seat D was, he gave me the slightest smile that said “Hey roomie”. Son of a …

As soon as my new plane pal sat down, I gave him my best “friendly greeting but understand we are not talking” nod and tried to look occupied. It didn’t work. I could feel his glare and his breath on my neck hairs, just waiting for me to initiate conversation. I needed to send the message at that point that would put this conversing thing right to bed.

I pulled out the latest issue of Fine Gardening Magazine (December 2014) and while reading it, also literally used it as a shield. I could tell that Sir-Chat-A-Lot was reading the ad on the back cover and was commenting to himself, but I wasn’t taking the bait. I flipped through the pages and allowed myself to get lost in the world of plants.

Ahhhhh ….

It worked and I began to feel comfortable and relaxed for the first time that day.

My mood was only enhanced when I turned to page 18 of the magazine and saw Stephanie Cohen’s write-up on Sneezeweed ‘Short n Sassy’.

And even more jazzed when I read Michelle Gervais take on my beloved Flame Grass.

fine g

I love both of those plants as well and I was transformed back home to my own garden. Daddy’s coming home soon …

I received a sample of Sneezweed ‘Short ‘n’ Sassy’ two years ago from Skagit Gardens and it delivered from day one.



As Stephanie mentioned in her write-up, this Sneezeweed blooms much earlier than the species. I checked my records and the blooms started around June 24th this year (zone 6B).

And it is still loaded with blooms as we speak. The deer and rabbits never touched it. A winner for sure.

Just like Michelle mentioned in her brief synopsis, I am moving away from Miscanthus and towards more native ornamental grasses. With one honking exception – Flame Grass.


I have three of these Miscanthus purpurascens in my garden and plan to divide them in spring to further the fun. The foliage color in conjunction with the silver blooms is an absolute must in the fall garden.



Thank you Fine Gardening Magazine for inspiring me, confirming that I have damn good taste in plants and most importantly, for shutting up passengers on planes. Don’t ever change.

Podcast – Michelle Gervais (Senior Editor, Fine Gardening magazine)

My latest podcast is in the books, as I had a chance to chat with Michelle Gervais, senior editor at Fine Gardening magazine. We talked plants, her backstory and how it led to Fine Gardening magazine and why we share a non-liking for annuals.

You can listen to it here.

Check out her eye candy filled blog on the Fine Gardening website – Garden Photo of the Day


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.          

“Plant Combinations” from Fine Gardening magazine

A funny thing happened last night after I posted yesterday’s rant about my frustration with gardening. In the mailbox, was a special issue from Fine Gardening magazine that could not have been timed any better:

While on Twitter recently, I had read a tweet where the magazine was looking to send copies of Plant Combinations to garden bloggers for their review. I jumped all over it as I have been a loyal reader of their magazine for years and the title alone fired me all up. The funny thing is, it has been chaotic at home of late and I completely forgot that this issue was on it’s way.

As soon as I had some time to sit down and read through it, I was immediately taken with the angle they took. It is all about using commonly known and readily available plants in combinations that are creative and unique. These consistent performers (purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, yucca) often aren’t trendy enough for some gardeners but the issue shows you how to reimagine them in an original way. My mind is still spinning as a result and I’m ready to start moving plants around again to try and mimic what is in this magazine. One that comes to mind is matching Yucca ‘Golden Sword’ with geraniums.    

Also, I was super psyched to see a bunch of photos of plantings that include brown sedges (Carex). I have talked about my love of these in the past and I now feel vindicated. Take a look at these and I guarantee you’ll be with me on it. Pinkie swear.

Between reading all of your comments last night and diving into this magazine, my bipolar gardening personality is swinging back in a better direction. If you can’t find this issue in stores, click here to buy it on-line. It is absolutely worth the price.


Garden Photo of the Day