Divide and Conquer! April 2021 Dig & Divide.

Lisa Biggio, Chair of Civic Beautification Committee.

Promising to help DGC members “turn perennials into cash” for the May 22 Annual Plant Sale, Lisa Biggio attracted 24 members to her Zoom presentation, Divide & Conquer. A Master Gardener and chair of the club’s Civic Beautification Committee, Lisa gave her April 14 audience compelling reasons to go all in for an event that provides the bulk of the club’s funds every year.

This year the plant sale venue at Abbot Public Library is new, and the actual sale hours will begin in the afternoon, rather than morning. Lisa’s presentation provided a refresher for longtime members and guidelines for new ones participating in the event, instructing her audience on the basics on plant propagation. She also noted that in addition to giving DGC the needed inventory for a successful sale, digging and dividing can improve the health of the mother plant by aerating the soil around the root ball and thereby stimulating new growth.

Eight DGC members have generously donated their gardens. Lisa said that some plants could yield up to 20 plants, resulting in hundreds of plants for sale Diggers were reminded to bring their own bag of soil to fill in any holes left in donors’ gardens and to line the bottom of temporary holding plastic pots with newspaper to retain moisture and save on potting soil.

Lisa offered the following ten best practices for digging and dividing:

  • Divide when a plant looks good
  • Start digging at the drip line
  • Divide in cool weather
  • Keep roots cool and moist
  • Replenish soil with organic matter
  • Use vigorous sections first
  • Take extra care when the plant is in bloom
  • Keep only the healthiest pieces
  • Spread out your divisions
  • Let the roots be your guide

And here are the five basic root types DGC diggers should look for:

  1. Offsets – Small plants growing at the base of a larger one

Divide by cutting between any of the sections to obtain a piece with roots or at least 3 eyes or growing points.

i.e.  asters, echinacea, hosta, tickseeds

2. Surface roots – Roots that run on or just below the surface of the soil and forming new crowns

Divide by cutting between the stems and you should see a stem with its own roots.

i.e.  bee balm, black-eyed Susan, creeping sedums, creeping veronica

3. Tap roots – A large root that is usually growing deep down into the soil

Divide by slicing down the length of the root and diving into pieces with at least 1 eye or growth bud.

i.e.  balloon flower, asclepias, euphorbia, oriental poppies

4. Underground running roots – Runners that grow underground beyond the mother plant.

Divide by the remote pieces that can be cultivated from the mother plant. These can be separated into the pieces that have an eye or a sucker formed.

i.e.  anemones, hardy geranium, ostrich ferns, plume poppies

5. Woody roots – A woody root stem rests on the ground or becomes buried around the mother plant and sprouts roots.  Can be cut from the plant directly.

i.e.  candytuft, euonymus, sages, salvias, lavenders

Adapted from FineGardening.com   10 Tips on Dividing Perennial Plants

                                                                                                                        Harriett Magee

Happy Dig & Dividers Ellen Nichols, Andrea Gregory, our Captain Laurie Boggis, Susan Smith, and Joy Purdin
Ginny von Rueden and our garden host Bob Jackson.

Flower Garden Reflections

Pandemic Gardening Thoughts submitted By Ginny von Rueden

Walking and gardening are two of the activities I have enjoyed the most during the last several months of the COVID pandemic.  More than giving me enjoyment, they gave me reprieve from the worries and solace from the disruptions of my regular routines. A love of gardening was a gift from my mother and one I have tried to nurture in my children. My lilacs and raspberries grow from shoots she gave me that have moved with me from house to house over many years. Thanks to her, the joy of working with nature sustains me and gives me hope.

During these difficult times, I am happy and grateful to be able to spend hours toiling in the soil as my garden flourishes from season to season. The scourge of the restrictions and cancellations imposed by the disease denies me from having something to which I can look forward. But my garden never fails me and faithfully gives me something to anticipate with each passing day. And, when tragedy strikes as it did with the falling of our large and ancient willow tree, there are always opportunities for renewal with different plantings and design decisions.  Sharing my garden is my way to connect with others when I take bouquets of flowers as gifts for both happy and sad occasions.  Tea and conversation (or wine and conversation! ) among the blooms lifts my spirits endlessly.

Attracting wildlife is always a goal of any garden designer and I’m so happy that the birds, bees and butterflies are regular visitors in my garden. When I see the bluejays splashing in the fountain, the robins clustering to eat the red berries on the hawthorne tree, the bees buzzing around the sedum, the butterflies hovering on the dahlias, I feel a kinship with them and know I’m helping our planet by providing a safe haven and sustenance for them.

Strolling around town provides more than exercise, it can be a euphoric experience with all the beauty that surrounds me.  Every time I gaze across Marblehead Harbor, I exclaim, “how lucky am I to live here!”.  I am always amazed by the variety of splendid gardens in every nook and cranny of our glorious town and their displays are food for the soul. My phone camera clicks constantly as I wander the streets and alleyways to capture the visual delights all around me. I can almost forget the isolation and suffering we have all experienced as we miss or mourn our loved ones.

I am truly grateful for the beauty of my surroundings which will continue to inspire me when life gets back to “normal”. And I’m ever thankful to call myself a “gardener”.

By Ginny von Rueden

Organic Garden Design, March 2021 DGC Zoom Meeting

Our virtual meetings continue to be well attended, with over 20 Driftwood Garden Club and Cottage Gardeners Club members logged on to Zoom.  DGC Program Co-Chair Sarah Bates introduced our March 2021 speaker Cathy Harragian, who has a background in science. Cathy ran an organic apple orchard for many years and continues to grow woodland medicinal plants.

Cathy’s Organic Garden Design presentation emphasizes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to promote the safe, least-toxic solutions to both pest and pesticide problems. Her goal is to create beautiful, low maintenance, low chemical landscapes for all seasons.

A corrugated cardboard band for insect control can traps pests without chemicals.

Cathy recommends leaves or wood mulch over cardboard as a safe method of weed control.

Tedders pyramid traps: Pyramid traps are designed for weevils, but will also trap other insects. In agricultural settings, these traps are used for identifying the time that pests are active. The traps are baited with bits of apples to attract the plum curculio weevils to establish the time that plum curculios are flying to a potential host. A company to source the tedder traps is Great Lakes IPM. www.greatlakesipm.com

One of the tenents of successful organic design is diversity in the garden. Plant the right plant in the right place. Include many native varieties to attract beneficial insects and pollinators. Harragian cited an example of preventative pest control when she planted a host plant as a diversion in the apple orchard. She also recommends interspersing edible plants, such as kale, in the flower garden as a way to increase diversity. 

Good groundcovers for shade in moist soil with good drainage: blood root (Sanguinaria Canadensis), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). For shade areas in medium soil: Allegheny pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens), American ginger (Asarum canadense). For sunny dry areas: bearberry (Arctostaphylus uva-ursi), Low sedum (Sedum album) Stonecrop (Sedum divergens), Epimedium.

Plant native Bloodroot as a groundcover for spring bloom.

American Ginger makes a good groundcover.

Grow non-GMO plants from seed and preserve heirloom seeds suitable for our New England climate. Seed Resources:

Johnny’s Seeds   www.johnnyseeds.com

Fedco Seeds  www.fedcoseeds.com

High Mowing Seeds  www.highmowingseeds.com

Look Ma, No Flowers! February 2021 Virtual Meeting via Zoom

Presided over by Program Co-Chair Sarah Bates, the February 9, 2021, DGC meeting garnered a sizable Zoom audience. The evening’s presentation by Westwood-based Deborah Trickett, a container garden designer who founded her firm, The Captured Garden, 17 years ago, was packed with robust, helpful, and sometimes surprising information about a category of plant material many regard as filler.

Who could imagine the allure of Hobbits Foot Sage and Curly Fries Hosta in a container on your porch? And the lowly coleus which now comes in an astounding number of shapes and colors, qualifying it as a “lead plant” in container design?

Members can find a list of some of Deborah’s other favorites in a handout Sarah has emailed to the membership. Instagram, Facebook, and www.thecapturedgarden.com are other platforms showcasing her work, which also includes speaking engagements throughout New England, TV appearances, garden maintenance services, and workshops at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum.

According to President Barbie Saraceno, 31 gardeners participated in the event, which was DGC’s second program of 2021. Four were Cottage Gardeners. Barbie noted a good number of attendees whom she hadn’t seen at programs in the recent past.

From the outset, Deborah won over her audience with three unarguable benefits offered by her favorite kind of plant: low maintenance, lasting good looks throughout the growing season, and less waste. In fact, she pointed out that instead of being thrown in the fall on the compost heap as is the fate of flowering pants, many foliage plants can winter over in the garden as perennials or be moved indoors and become houseplants.

Deborah also won over her audience by promising the gift of a hat with her logo to whoever could answer a question at the end of her talk and thereby resist the temptation to multi-task while Zooming. Evonne Peters was the first to answer the speaker’s question about her favorite color—green, no less.

Last, the speaker reminded her audience that low maintenance foliage containers give the gardener the chance to relax in her garden at the end of the day. Better a glass of wine and a book outdoors than the endless chore of deadheading flowering plants.     

           –Harriett Magee

Photos 1 & 2 courtesy of Deborah Trickett, The Captured Garden

Covid-19 Season Contemplations and Garden Pictures

Essay by Margaret Bowen

Staying-at-home this spring has provided a rare opportunity to work with my husband on our property.  Normally a regular on the golf course, he has been present every day and had the time to explore with me the needs of our plantings and to enjoy their beauty.  With the pent-up energy born of being housebound, we have both attacked with relish the pruning of overgrown Roses of Sharon, yews, holly and forsythia.  Chopping away at the limbs was so satisfying to my husband that he cut down a 12-foot tall witch hazel to a mere three feet!

It was also possible to protect our tulips from a bumper-crop of rabbits by spraying rabbit repellent and by covering them with prickly holly branches.  Sightings of our local woodchuck/groundhog have been frequent.  A coyote passed through the backyard one morning in search of its prey.  Then we removed two huge yews and discovered a nest of baby bunnies.  Yikes!

It’s been a time of re-attunement with nature.

Photo Credits

Pictures courtesy of Margaret Bowen: In the first picture there are roses and rose campion in the foreground with sedum and candytuft on the rocks.  In the background center are rhodies and on the far right is a rosa glauca shrub (flat flower), lemon thread shrub & catmint. In the second photo the white flowered shrub is deutzia ‘niko’, the blue is baptisia and behind are a barberry and a golden spirea.

Pictures courtesy of Janice Daley: Oh, the bunnies! Oh, the bees!

Picture courtesy of Barbara Tatum: The bright blue plant mid-photo is Pulmonaria “Trevi Fountain” blooming with Woodland Phlox “May Breeze” (I hope the phlox comes back! It was new in spring 2020.) The coral bells are “Pink Fizz.”

Plant This With That, January 2021 Virtual Meeting via Zoom

A 90-minute presentation to 50-some garden club members covered six garden scenarios  comprising more than 70 perennials, shrubs and bulbs, kicking off the first DCG program of 2021. The Jan. 12 event was hosted by President Barbie Saraceno on Zoom; she reported that 26 people from the Cottage Gardeners Club accepted DGC’s invitation to the event.

The evening’s speaker was landscape designer Laura Bibler, whose firm, In the Garden, LLC, is based in West Newbury, Mass. Her “Plant This with That” lecture covered plant selection, design, and cultural requirements. The talk offered the audience a comprehensive and rich gardening lesson. Although focused on plant pairing, as her title suggested, Laura reminded her listeners of the multiple factors that determine a successful garden.

For example, she pointed out that since plants are typically purchased in bloom, it’s tempting to forget their appearance will change dramatically from the beginning to the end of the season. Knowing the different iterations of a plant helps to ensure pairings work well over several months.

Thanks to a handout distributed to attendees by Program Chair Sarah Bates, this spring gardeners will be able to plan their own full-sun to full-shade gardens and those in between using the suggested combinations. Some examples were goatsbeard and hosta, Russian sage and phlox, and red twig dogwood and boxwood.

The event was a hugely valuable lesson. Gardening fundamentals like sun exposure as the deal breaker and the rule of planting in odd numbers were interspersed with the West Newbury designer’s advice and observations. Use certain tall blue irises for their significant foliage rather than for their transient flowers. Cut back ‘Becky’ daisies three times for repeat blooming. Go to the public website for Van Berkum Nursery, Deerfield, NH, for excellent information. Laura said it has the best perennials but sells only on a wholesale basis.

Acer palmatum diss.atropurpurem Crimson Queen’ (Laceleaf Japanese Maple),
Deutzia gracillis Nikko’ (Deutzia), Cotoneaster dammeri Coral Beauty’ (Cotoneaster)
Piceapungens Glauca Globosa’ (Global Blue Spruce), & Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’

A recording of the Zoom presentation is available at the DCG website in the ‘Member’ section through January 2021.

P.S. Additional notes from ‘Plant This With That’ Presenter Laura Bibler

The wholesale perennial nursery I spoke of is Van Berkum in Chester, New Hampshire.  This link will bring you directly to the plant information page:  http://www.vanberkumnursery.com/perennial-photos-catalog/.  Another good source for information on trees and shrubs is Millican Nursery, also in New Hampshire.  They sell only wholesale, but their website’s plant index is open to the public.  This link will bring you to that page:  http://www.millicannurseriesinc.com/plant-index.aspx. The bulb catalog website is https://www.johnscheepers.com/.  Again, they have a wealth of information on their site.  In addition to the two nurseries that I mentioned, Lake Street Nursery (in Salem, NH, nice selection of Roses too) and Russell’s Garden Center (in Wayland, far for you!), Corliss Brothers and Wolf Hill typically have a good selection of perennials.  
There was a question about pruning Hydrangea quercifolia.  Would you let your club know that the flowers are formed on the previous year’s growth, so it should be pruned after flowering.  

Season’s Greetings 2020!

The Driftwood Garden Club wishes you Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy during this Holiday Season.  Since we can’t have a Holiday House Tour due to Covid19, please share some pictures with us.  Stay warm, stay safe, stay healthy!  Happy New Year 2021!

Gifts from The Sea at the King Hooper Mansion– December 2020

For over ten years the Driftwood Garden Club has collaborated with other garden clubs in Marblehead to decorate the historic King Hooper Mansion, home of the Marblehead Arts Association, for the holiday season.

This year talented DGC members Laurie Boggis and Ginny von Rueden designed and installed the display in the first-floor dining room. Their ‘Gifts From The Sea’ silver-themed décor includes fallen branches, driftwood, starfish, sea urchins, shells, beach stones, and hermit crabs found on Cape Cod. Foliage sprays include different types of artemisia, dried cow parsley, and rose hips…wired together and sprayed silver. The ‘Gifts From The Sea’ display is gorgeous!

Please join the preview of holiday décor on Friday, December 4th, 2020, from 5-7 PM to enjoy all the decorated rooms, current MAA art exhibits, and see some of your gardening friends!

Your Body In The Garden

The Driftwood Garden Club of Marblehead’s November 2020 meeting was a robust Zoom presentation by Susan Guest entitled “Your Body in the Garden.” Susan, who has a background in physical fitness, highlighted practical information to keep us injury-free while we work in the garden. We all know gardening can be demanding on the body. She showed us a variety of ergonomic tools to bring more awareness to our posture, improve our strength and flexibility, and avoid muscle strain. Don’t forget your wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen! She also emphasized the importance of enjoying the experience, and walking barefoot on your grass to connect with nature.  As always, our meeting was a time for us to learn valuable information and to reconnect with fellow garden club members.

Putting Your Garden To Bed

On a crisp fall morning, two groups of Driftwood Garden Club members gathered at the homes of Ginny Von Rueden and Margaret Bowen for practical demonstrations on putting our gardens to bed for the winter.  Many thanks to speakers Kathy Bradford, Ginny Von Rueden, and Laurie Boggis.  We learned which plants to bring inside, which to cut back now and which to leave until spring. According to speaker Kathy Bradford, “If it is yellow or brown, cut it down. If it is green, leave it alone!”  We also discussed cleaning our tools at the end of the season: wash your tools, then dry and coat with a light layer of linseed or mineral oil to prevent rust.  Putting your garden to bed is a process over several months, and will result in less spring cleanup and healthy plants to enjoy next year!