11 May 2009

Letters Across the Pond: Spring and Work Simplification

Note from jodi: Things are more than a little hectic with me right now, from talks to deadlines to a garden exploding in glee. Happily, Sylvia has come to my rescue and written a new letter, which I'm sharing with you. Please take the time to comment as we're enjoying doing this and hope our readers are enjoying it as well. It's fun to have a dialogue between a gardener in England and one in Nova Scotia.

Dear Jodi,

No not everyone writes at 4 in the morning! I do hope you enjoyed the show, even if it was work, I read a comment somewhere that you were reading blogs while having a quiet moment at the show. I can imagine that the show is really tiring so I'm not surprised that you were taking a break but it still made me chuckle. I also saw your comment on Melanie's Old Country Gardens blog that you write "to do lists", I am always writing lists. I have several on the go at the moment, the "must do now" and the "to do when I have time" lists. I am sure that you can guess that both are long. Spring is my favourite time of the year but the garden seems to need more work than I have time for and I only have a small garden. On my last letter Karen (An Artist's Garden) commented that "small gardens take a lot more work than bigger ones" I wonder if that is true, what do you think? I hope so because with your time constraints and your large garden, I can't imagine how you keep it looking so lovely. I am pleased your husband is helping out, if he helps with the weeding will he know which are weeds, I would worry!

One way of reducing the work is shrubs, though most of them still need pruning, though I see that you have been getting the snow to help you! I am sorry that your viburnums got damaged in the snow, I do wonder how you can protect them next year. I have a few shrubs and trees though not as many as I would like, I would also like to be able to plant several of one or two plants to cover an area but that wouldn't satisfy my plant lust. One plant I hope to get this year is a trillium, I have this perception that they are difficult to grow, possibly because they are expensive. It will be an easy job for me to count them, I wonder what your count will be, I hope it is more than last year. Counting flowers is not something I have ever done but I remember that your husband counted your snowdrops as well. It must be interesting to keep a record each year to compare.

Spring is moving on in my garden, I have lots of plants out in flower including, poppies and iris. My first poppy to flower is Patty's Plum, I love the colour of this poppy though it doesn't show up as well as some of the other colours. How I yearn for your blue poppy, our winters are not normally cold enough to grow it, I saw my first ones in flower while on holiday last June. This year I will have to make do with your pictures and any others I can see on blogs. Blogs are a lovely way to enjoy flowers we can't grow and to prolong the seasons. Your spring may be later but I am enjoying seeing all my favourite flowers again.

I have finished digging the last border in my back garden, by the willow circle. Most of this bed is in full sun - as an aside, I find planting in sun much harder than shade, most of the plants I like are shade lovers - I have put a tree peoania in. I do like tree peonies but they are expensive so this is my very first one, I love them as plants so the flowers will be an interest but not the main reason to grow them. The other plants I have put in are all plants that I have in pots, I seem to accumulate pots of plants with nowhere to put them. I have put in some very tall lilies that have been advertised a lot this year and I couldn't resist, they were not very expensive but I have had to spray them because we get a horrible red lily beetle that eats lilies and other related plants. The local cats have found this bed and making use of it!

The other pest I am having problems with this year is mice or a mouse! I lost a lot of my spring bulbs, that were in containers and now it has taken a fancy to some dahlia tubers I have just planted in pots. Hopefully the mouse trap will work, so far he/she has eaten the peanut butter butter and got away. I am not sure where these dahlia's will go yet but will keep them snug against the house walls until all chance of frost has gone and the nights are warmer, hopefully mid May.

Talking of May my next letter will mainly be about my holiday, we will be visiting lots of gardens but I will only be able to tell you a little about one or two. I enjoy visiting gardens and my husband enjoys the walk, but neither of us can resist bringing some plants back with us. Luckily (or unluckily) car room will restrict how many!

Must finish now, hope you have managed to get into your garden at some point in your busy life.

Best wishes Sylvia


  1. How wonderful that you are exchanging letters! The photos are incredible! Absolutely beautiful!--Randy

  2. Jodi: Work does intrude on gardening but then there will be more opportunities to feed the plant addiction. How nice to hear from a gardener half a world away.

  3. Sylvia, Hello~~I haven't found trilliums difficult...I think they are plants that take care of themselves...being native to our woodlands. I'm not sure they like coddling! Try a little benign neglect and see if that helps. Your photos are beautiful...the dark tulip against the viburnums...lovely. Take care

    Jodi, I am enjoying your letters immensely....and picturing your garden exploding with glee.


  4. Just wondering what the blue flowers behind the irises are?

  5. I do hope you are finding some time to enjoy the garden and getting out to the 'wilderness chapel' to get some R&R.

  6. Hey all, thanks for your comments...they're always appreciated.

    Chookie, I think that blue flowered shrub is a Ceanothus or California lilac (Sylvia is on holiday so I will guess on her behalf.). I can't grow them here but that blue colour makes me consumed with envy. I think she sent that pic to tease me about my blue poppies. "You want blue? How about this, then?" I love it!

  7. These letters have been fun to read and to hear about what you are doing in your gardens. I have a small garden and it does seem to be a lot of work, but large gardens seem overwhelming to me. I guess we all love to put a lot of time into them no matter what size they are. Beautiful garden photos!

  8. Hi Jodi;

    I just read Sylvia's comments and I have a couple of my own to share. The viburnum with the tulips is a nice contrast. Here in Vermont a beetle is raising havoc with all viburnums and some sucuumb to being heavily defoliated. I hate to see plants and shrubs that I enjoy going this way. I gave up growing lilium last year because of the lily beetle and its devastation.

    Regarding trilliums being difficult to grow--not so here in Vermont. Grandiflorum, erectum and undulatum are the three we have here although many others survive nicely. There is a 4th variety that grows in Maine that tops off the New England natives. I use Fred Case's great book when I have trillium questions. If I remember there are 43 varieties in North America.

    When we moved to Marshfield, Vt in 1989, I brought along a couple trillium grandiflorum--the big, pure white natives that prefer the limestone soils along Lake Champlain. Late each summer I race insects and deer to the pods and when I win, I poke a hole in the ground and plant the entire pod at once. Over time this has expanded our collection nicely.

    Trilliums can be dug in August and the rhizome can be cut in small pieces and replanted. This is a much quicker means of reproduction than planting seed and waiting 7 years for bloom.

    Thanks for sharing comments, your own and others. It's enjoyable seeing and hearing about other gardeners and their ideas.

    George Africa
    The Vermont Gardener
    Vermont Flower Farm

  9. Sylvia, I learned as much about you in this post as I did Jodi. That means you are a very thoughtful writer. You would make a delightful friend and I'd learn how to better communicate. Your garden looks pretty and I agree about the shrubs making it easier. So sorry about the mice/mouse problem. That's expensive.

    Jodi, I'm nutty busy too but think you are doing a grand job at keeping up. Much better than I.

  10. The article is nice. Combination of blue & white flower looks sweet.U can also see this site "www.myvirtualhome.asia"

  11. Beautiful photos, Sylvia. I also really like the Queen of the Night (or is that Paul Scherer) against what I now know is a viburnum.

    If you really like blue-blue flowers and can't grow meconopsis - have you tried nemophila menziesii? Since you can grow what looks close to one of our native ceanothus (ceanothuses? ceanothi?), maybe these wildflowers will work for you, too.

    I learned lots from the comments and as always enjoyed hearing about Sylvia's garden.

  12. Thank you all so much for your lovely comments. I am just catching up with my reading after my holiday - I have lots to tell you all and lots of photos!

    The blue shrub is Ceanothus Concha, it does survive here though I lost a branch this winter, either to the cold or to the winds.

    Pomona you are right first time, the tulips are Queen of the Night and this is their third year. I have sown Nemophila once but without any coming up - I must try again.

    Thank you and best wishes Sylvia (England)


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