NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


A Gardening Journal

The Best Season Ever: Farge's Cobra Lily

"Cobra lily." Those two words pack so much contradiction: A poisonous snake vs. a gorgeous flower. Aggression that's fatal vs. wouldn't-hurt-a-fly beauty. Sudden messy combat vs. stately and welcoming display. 


The perennial that bears the extraordinary flowers below isn't a lily at all, let alone some sort of fastidiously-striped snake. And for all the cues that we humans could see as predatory (that needle-like tip, the front-and-forward helmet covering...well, what?) or salacious (what is going on in there?), Arisaema fargesii needs plenty of kindness and effort to feel welcome in most gardens.

Arisaema fargesii flower front 062115 320

Only when under attack-by-chewing does the plant fight back: Sharp crystals in its tuber cause immediate and painful swelling. But if you can put your arm around its shoulder, not your teeth into its tuber, a cobra lily is a safe and sensational thrill.


Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Variegated Meadowsweet

My deep and heavy soil is a favorite of filipendulas: Even with no irrigation, ever, my Camschatica filipendula tops seven feet; if I would provide conditions just a bit moister, it might top ten. 


At any height, the variegated meadowsweets are worth the effort to provide the rich soil and plentiful moisture they require. The Siberian variegate can form colonies as large as any side-by-side washer and dryer. This European variegate is one of the smallest, forming clumps just two to three feet tall. 

Filipendula ulmaria Variegata 072015 320

It deserves—and receives—a prime spot: I lifted another slab of my bluestone terrace to create a bed on the shady side of the contorted beech. I guessed right, and this Filipendula ulmaria 'Variegata' is thriving. And the big guy to the left is positively joyful.


Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Kwangtung Beautyberry

Most beautyberries are one-season wonders. Yes, their Fall show of metallic lavender berries is sui generis, and a thrill for that reason alone. But the rest of the year, the bushes are a snooze.

Callicarpa kwangtunensis for flowers 071515 320

This chinese species of beautyberry, though, is also a thrill in Spring and Summer. Its burgundy stems bear unusually large leaves that emerge burgundy and mature to dark green with showy burgundy veins. They are both perfect foils for the clusters of white flowers that emerge in July.  


Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Ferny Hellebore in Summer

A year ago in early Spring, my colony of this astonishing hellebore was young—and not just because its new foliage and flowers were still emerging. Even when mature, the weirdly stiff leaves looked more spidery than fluffy.


This season, the plants have owned up to their inner feather-dusteriness: Each leaf is dissected into scores of rustling grassy segments.

Helleborus multifidus subsp. hercegovinus 071315 320 

If ever there were a plant for hyper-fussy fetishists, here it is.


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