Persistent Fruit?

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Back when I worked in retail gardening, there were certain plants that everyone wanted–until they understood what was required for fruiting. Hollies (the genus ilex) was one of these. Everyone wanted the red berrying hollies.

No one wanted to plant a male plant (in other words, one without berries) so that they could get the red berries. If you knew how many times I answered the question about “but my neighbor has a holly. Can’t I just use theirs for the male?”

So we sold far fewer hollies than we should because they are lovely, deer resistant native plants for New England and they have persistent fruit (meaning their berries stay on the shrub and don’t fall off and make a mess) until they ripen after the winter. That’s why the birds harvest them in the spring and why they’re available if you choose to cut them for winter decorations.

Since my retail gardening days, hollies have come a long way as well. Breeders are making smaller shrubs and more heavily berrying shrubs. You still need plants of both sexes for most kinds of hollies to get berries–but now at least, the sizes of the shrubs are a bit more manageable for home gardens!

Another small tree that was a near impossible sell was the crab apple. Crab apples have come a long way and they too have persistent fruit. But many folks remember the older variety that dropped messy “apples” and so won’t even consider them.

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Crabapples are another fruit that remains on the tree throughout the winter and is available for returning migratory birds in early spring so it’s a valuable resource.

Take a little time to learn about our new and improved plants the next time you are shopping for a small tree or evergreen shrub. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Is This Normal?

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On Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about roses.

This rose foliage may not look all that unusual to you. I meant to take a photo all summer and then cut out this cane. The fact that it’s still there tells you that it’s been a difficult gardening year for me.

Actually when I went to take the photo today, I took it in 3 different versions. I wasn’t sure what would show you how unusual this is relative to what’s around it in the dead of winter.

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If this photo doesn’t work for you, perhaps this next one will.

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Yes, that straight cane–and the well branched canes with the tiny rose hips behind it–are on the same plant. Now I think you can see the problem.

The long straight cane is obviously a sport or mutation that needs to come out.

I would tell you that it was the rootstock trying to assert itself, but I believe that this is a rose grown on its own roots (as opposed to many roses which are grafted onto hardier rootstock in which this sort of thing can happen).

In any event, this long mutant cane needs to be pruned out now before it causes harm to the rose.

By “harm,” I mean taking over or possibly passing disease.

This is a priority for me very early this year.

Unusual Winter

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While we are still above average in snowfall this winter, it has been unusually warm as well. January averaged over 7 degrees above normal. That’s hugely ridiculous in terms of warm (although much of that had to do with warm evenings. Very much of our warming here in New England has to do with nights not getting as cold as they should. In January, the nights were as warm as the days!)

So unfortunately when we have precipitation, what’s falling is falling as rain (if we’re lucky) or freezing rain if we’re not. Either way, there hasn’t been much significant snow since early December.

What then do we see during all this rain and ice?

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I am lucky. I have a lot of moss. So there is a significant amount of green around my property.

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Of course many of us plant evergreens so that we have something to look at in the winter as well.

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The above house, with the betula nigra and the evergreens, is especially nice. It’s a great landscape for a non-snowy winter. There’s lots of color and winter interest.

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Here’s a better look at just the evergreens from that same landscape.

For my long time readers, if you remember the gingko tree from last fall, with the pool of golden leaves all over the ground–this is that same landscape. It’s really first class.

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And the structure of bare branches is sometimes more beautiful than trees with leaves.

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But otherwise, a winter landscape with no snow is sort of dead and brown. As a gardener, it just seems to be resting, waiting for spring.

More Travel

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Although there are just a few grasses visible in this photo, what I was really taking was the sculpture inside the glass. It’s called End of the Trail and it’s by James Earle Fraser. It’s a heartbreaking work–even through the glass in my bad, shadowy photograph the dejection of the figure and horse are visible.

To me, that sums up much of the history of Oklahoma. While it is a thriving place to do business now, (as they repeatedly insist in commercials, the airport and elsewhere), the history is still here of course.

So I chose to walk in the gardens of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum while my cousins toured the exhibits.

I didn’t go too far–there are proper gardens and a burial site for former rodeo horses. But some sort of construction seemed to be occurring and I didn’t want to clamber over too many cables.

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I did see some creeping phlox just beginning to bloom, which was a nice treat.

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The museum has 7 Frederic Remingtons. This is an enlarged version of one called Coming Through the Rye.

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Interestingly enough, these palm trees didn’t seem to belong–and yet they appeared in a few places in the garden.

My other favorite thing in this museum is the vast murals of the west.

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There are 5 of them but this one of Yellowstone is my favorite. I could stand in front of it for hours.

My sister says they give the bar exam in this room (hence the desk for the proctors in front). I surely never could have concentrated in a room like this!

Bittersweet

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I am in Oklahoma this week on a bittersweet errand. Part of it is quite joyful. I am happy to be able to celebrate my Mom’s 90 birthday.

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But for the third time in numerous years, my sister and I are helping her plan a move. She is moving from her apartment, down the hall to assisted living. At least she is able to do that and doesn’t need to leave the lovely property where she’s lived for the 7 years.

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We had a little party here for her this past weekend. Some cousins drove out from the East Coast. More are flying in this week. Turning 90 in my family is very special (I am guessing it would be in most families).

So in addition to helping Mom, we took the cousins to a few Oklahoma sights. The first 2 above are from the Land Run Memorial, commissioned for the Oklahoma Centennial in 2007.

Despite Oklahoma’s sad history, the sculptures themselves are amazing pieces of art. The details rendered in the bronze are stunning.

The absence of plants are also notable. There is, of course, the grasses (and nothing was identified) presumably designed to simulate the prairie.

There was the prickly pear cactus shown in my top photo of the leaping jack rabbit.

And there was red aloe (that I grow in containers in Connecticut) but which is clearly hardy here.

On Friday I will show photos from my other “tourist” trip (a museum I have been to many times but my cousins had not, so they took the docent tour and I went outside to see what was blooming).