This is a gardening blog by a guy who dared to veer off the beaten path and discovered plants and gardening along the way. Join me as I write about my processes and inspirations from my “Midwest” point of view.

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Fast, Foolproof, and Delicious

The wooden spoon has replaced the trowel, the oven mitts my garden gloves. There is a bit more time to spend in the kitchen now that the garden beds have been prepared for their rest. This is a glimpse of what I’ve been up to in kitchen. Please visit the Around The Table page of my site for the recipes.


Cauliflower Soup with Parsley

The Best Granola


Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2012

So, here we are. It’s officially fall and not much is blooming, at least not in my garden. I do have a couple of things to share though. We’ve had two frosts and temps in the lower 30s already, but despite these two occurrences, the Geraniums (annual and perennial) are still blooming. Above, the pink flower is an annual from the Caliente Geranium series (Geranium Pelargonium). What I love about this variety, aside from its blooming power, is the semi-trailing habit. It’s perfect for containers where you need a little ‘spill’ action over the sides. I’ve deconstructed my summer pots already, but could not bring myself to get rid of these beauties.

Pictured above, Rozanne Geranium was a plant I kept my eye on all season at the garden center. I was told that this particular plant was a prolific bloomer and would bloom till a hard killing frost. As the season went on, the plants in pots indeed kept blooming. We sold them by the hundreds and my curiosity got the best of me. In late September, I finally took the plunge and purchased five plants to try in my own garden. True to form, they have kept blooming. Wayside Gardens calls this plant “The Geranium of the Millennium!”  The blooms are brilliant and seem to glow in the garden beds. I plan to line the sunny area below the Juniper (pictured below) if the plants survive our Zone 5 & 6 winter.

Even from a distance, the five small Rozanne Geranium have a presence. Imagine what they’ll look like when they mature. If all goes well, I will add up to six more plants to this area.

Earlier this spring I planted one Heptacodium miconioides– a large fountain-shaped, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub. The common name of this shrub is Seven-Son Flower. The blooms are actually white (in September), but more interesting than that are the small purplish-red fruits that follow. They are crowned by five showy, sepal-like pink calyces that elongate after the bloom. They last into late fall. In winter, this shrub’s tan bark will exfoliate and reveal an attractive brown inner bark. It was only recently that I learned this plant is native to China. Unknowingly, I somehow always gravitate to plants whose origins are Asian.

Ok, technically not a bloom, the foliage of Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow is so showy that I had to include it in this post. I have a couple of favorite plants this year, and this one ranks right up there. As the temperatures have cooled, the tips of the foliage have taken on reddish-pink tones. I’m making it a point to learn more about Euphorbia this winter.

Sedum Autumn Joy is always a fall favorite. The large mass by the creek bank is always beautiful this time of year. The blooms have started turning their tell tale color of deep bronzy-red.

Looking back at the house from the creek, it’s hard to believe that summer is finally over. The fall rains have created a verdant lawn which compliments the onset of autumnal tones in the trees.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a Meme created by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Gardeners post images of what’s blooming in their garden on the 15th day of every month. To see what’s blooming all over the world today, visit Carol’s blog.


New Shade Garden Plants: Part 2

Yes, I know it’s bit insane when you consider how many new plants I’ve introduced at Sutherland this year. But in my defense, most were on sale, or purchased with my employee discount at the garden center. And a bit of review for the newer readers: we have spent the last several years painstakingly clearing, cleaning, and amending the property and soil so we could at long last begin the fun part– planting! The following concludes my list of shade loving plants that were incorporated into the garden this season. I hope you see something you like, or better yet, have some personal experience with any of them that you can share with me.


Hosta ‘Fire Island’

The brilliant yellow leaves of this Hosta really caught my attention earlier this spring. By summer, the leaves had turned chartreuse and the base of each leaf stained with red from the petioles. As this plant matures, it should develop rippled edges and just a touch of corrugation (already evident on some leaves). I’m a sucker for yellow and chartreuse in the shade garden.

Height: 10-14”

Spread: 15-30”

Exposure: Part shade, Full shade

Bloom time: Midsummer

Bloom color: Lavender shades

Water: Even moisture, regular


Hosta ‘Hollywood Lights’

Whenever I see a pretty green Hosta, I snatch it up. So often, the green plants take a back seat to the blue, yellow and variegated variaties. The asymmetry of the variegation is refreshing after seeing so many “perfect” specimens at leaf shows. Each leaf is distinctive with the interplay of dark green margins and chartreuse centers.

Height: 23”

Spread: 43”

Exposure: Part shade, Full shade

Bloom time: Midsummer

Bloom color: Pale Lavender shades

Water: Even moisture, regular


Hosta ‘Hyuga Urajiro’

I can hardly pronounce the name of this little guy! It’s by far the most unusual Hosta I have in the garden. The top side of the leaves are frost blue with fine yellow streaks while the underside have a metallic silver sheen. The blooms are fantastic on arching stems– white with just a hint of pink. I’m not a fan of streaked Hostas, but I had to give this odd plant a try.

Height: 8-10”

Spread: 14-16”

Exposure: Part shade, Full shade

Bloom time: Midsummer

Bloom color: White shades

Water: Even moisture, regular


Crytomium x fortunei - Fortune’s Cold Hardy Holly Fern

Can ferns be macho? I say yes, and tend to be drawn to those that appear more masculine. Fortune’s has tough-looking woodland style with strong upright form and holly-like leaf formations. A nice departure from the more dainty ferns, which tend to resemble green doilies in the garden.

Height: 18-24”

Spread: 15-18”

Exposure: Part shade, Full shade

Bloom time: NA

Bloom color: NA

Water: Even moisture, regular


Dryopteris erythrosoia - Autumn Fern or Japanese Shield Fern

When I created my first Hosta bed, I envisioned a collection of mostly Hostas sprinkled with an occasional Hellebore and some gold grasses for contrast. As the bed grew, so did my appetite for differing plants, and dare I say color? I really like the contrasting warm tones on the new fronds of the Autumn Fern against the many shades of green, gold, and blue from the neighboring plants.

Height: 12-18”

Spread: 12-18”

Exposure: Part shade, Full shade

Bloom time: NA

Bloom color: NA

Water: Even moisture, regular


Polystichum polyblepharum - Tassel Fern 

Maybe what I really want is a fern garden!? Here’s another fern that I’ve introduced to the Hosta garden. The Tassel Fern is all about texture. It’s a sturdy fern with luscious shiny dark green fronds that bend backward after they emerge. The word “polyblepharum” means “many eyelashes.” Oh, and did I mention, deer resistant?

Height: 18-24”

Spread: 12-15”

Exposure: Part shade, Full shade

Bloom time: NA

Bloom color: NA

Water: Even moisture, regular


Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’

This was a great find! It looked terrific in the pot and has just gotten better and better since it’s been in the ground– even through the drought. The foliage and bracts are stunning in shades of cream, lime, and green. As the weather cools, the ends should become red, orange, and pink shades. Chalk this up as an excellent heat and drought tolerant plant. Technically not a ‘shade’ plant, it resides in sunny area within the shade garden.

Height: 20”

Spread: 20”

Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade

Bloom time: Late spring

Bloom color: Multicolored

Water: Low to Average water needs


Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’

As noted in a previous post, I’ve planted around 40 of these in one mass planting. I’m a big fan of purple/burgundy foliage plants. I find the lovely plum-purple leaves with dark purple veins on this Heuchera quite sumptuous. It blooms in white/cream shades, but I find the flowers on most Heuchera quite distracting, so I cut them off immediately after they bloom. Looking forward to a big batch of plum pudding next spring.

Height: 8-10”

Spread: 12-16”

Exposure: Full Sun, Full shade

Bloom time: Late spring to midsummer

Bloom color: White shades

Water: Average water needs


Heuchera ‘Purple Petticoats’

The photo your are looking at was not taken by me. It’s actually from the Terra Nova website, where I learned that ‘Purple Petticoats’ placed first for winter foliage at a top horticultural show during one of Holland’s toughest winters. The frilly edges of the leaves are accentuated by the clinging frost. I hope to witness this chilly effect in my own garden this coming winter.

Height: 12”

Spread: 24”

Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

Bloom time: Spring

Bloom color: White shades

Water: Average water needs



September Reflection and Thanksgiving

But now in September the garden has cooled, and with it my possessiveness. The sun warms my back instead of beating on my head … The harvest has dwindled, and I have grown apart from the intense midsummer relationship that brought it on.

- Robert Finch

September has always been a favorite month of mine. The prelude to fall, my favorite garden season, I relish in the transition from searing summer to cool crisp days. The slower the better. My visual side obsesses with the hues of autumn. Cooking, in particular roasting, begins to peak my interest again, and the rush to get last minute perennials, trees, and shrubs into the ground before September’s end revives my gardener spirit no matter how long and hot the summer was.

I stayed home from work today with a nasty head cold. Being sick is no fun, but I am happy for a bit of time to sit and reflect as we anticipate another rainfall this afternoon. I miss the garden center when I’m not there. It’s an exciting time as we are receiving shipments almost as frequently as in spring. Though this time, it’s mums, corn shocks, bails of straw including bittie bails (so cute), asters, pumpkins, gourds, plus all sorts trees and shrubs. Yes, fall is just around the corner.

It seems like only yesterday the sun would beat me to chase as I would begin the 6AM ritual of endless watering in the muggy morning air. The changes of the season are certainly in the air, and the sight of my breath in the cool morning air does not bother me as much as the prospect of waking to a dark sky. Fall provides an opportunity to exhale and time to reflect on what was accomplished during the summer months. Many things were planted despite a scorching summer sans rain. I made a pact with the garden to remain focused and steadfast on plant material that I refused to lose. Today, I can look out among the lawns and smile proudly, not only at the fact that we made it, but that many are thriving. Although we have not balanced the rain deficit, we have had enough for things to break dormancy and come back with a vengeance. New growth abounds. Let’s hope for a late winter.

It’s a little early for Thanksgiving, but it’s always appropriate to be thankful. Today, I am thankful for all the wonderful gardeners and growers who have taken the time to teach me a thing or two. You know who you are, and your garden wisdom is paying off.


My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view. 

- H. Fred Dale


New Shade Garden Plants: Part 1

Working at a Garden Center and Nursery has been a blessing and a curse at the same time. It’s very difficult to resist the urge of bringing home new plants everyday. From time to time, I give into temptation and add a little something here and there at Sutherland. Looking back though, I guess it’s been more than just ‘a little’ something. Maybe I have a problem. Could I be turning into a plant collector? Could it be time for an intervention?

Before the big drought, I began with a few additions to the shade gardens. Its been difficult trying to keep it all alive during the dry period, but I think I have persevered. The following plants are new 2012 introductions at Sutherland.


Astilbe x arendsii ‘Rhythm and Blues’

This lovely perennial is set along the front of the house. I’m unsure of the finicky nature of this very thirsty plant, but when I saw the beautiful raspberry-pink plumes, I knew I had to give it a try. Much like a peony, the bloom period is fleeting, but so worth it. Astilbe is a great plant for color in the shade garden.

Height: 25”

Spread: 16-20”

Exposure: Part sun

Bloom time: Midsummer

Bloom color: Pink shades

Water: Prefers consistent soil moisture.


Thalictrum Evening Star Strain

In the Hosta garden, I’m trying this Thalicturm by Terra Nova. A grower/friend of mine gave me three of these to try and I shared two with other gardeners. I’m looking forward to next season to get a report back on their performance. This is a lovely woodland perennial with foliage like Epimedium.

Height: 8”

Spread: 10”

Exposure: Part shade, Full shade

Bloom time: Spring

Bloom color: Pink shades

Water: Average to moist


Thalictrum kiusianum, Dwarf Meadow Rue

In a different area of the Hosta bed I’ve placed a Thalictrum commonly known as Dwarf Meadow Rue. My goal for this slow spreader is to fill in all areas between the larger Hosta plants where unsightly mulch and bare spots are visible. The lacy foliage will contrast nicely against the larger leafed plants.

Height 4-6”

Spread 12-16”

Exposure: Part Shade

Bloom time: Summer

Bloom Color: Lilac shades

Water: Average to moist


Fallopia japonica ‘Variegata’, Variegated Japanese Fleeceflower 

I’m very excited about the addition of this plant as it meets several visual criteria in the garden. This is tall vigorous grower with heart-shaped creamy white leaves splashed with dark green specs. The new growth often has coral shades on reddish stems. I’ve only had the plant a few months and already I’m loving all of its attributes.

Height: 4 feet

Spread: 2-3 feet

Exposure: Full sun, Part shade

Bloom time: Late summer, Early fall

Bloom color: White shades

Water: Low to average water needs


Filipendula palmata ‘Variegata’, Meadowsweet

I find the large maple-shaped leaves along the stems of this plant enchanting. I maintain that I am a foliage guy and couldn’t resist these leaves splashed and marginated in white, platinum, lime and dark green. The leafy stems rise to 4 feet and in late spring are topped with a large plume of white flowers. This plant is best in part shade. Note: Apologies for this photo which focuses on the bloom and not the foliage. What was I thinking?

Height: 4-6 feet

Spread: 2 feet

Exposure: Part shade

Bloom time: June

Bloom color: White shades

Water: Moist, well-drained


Final thoughts: 

I’m frightened by the quantity of plants listed above and I haven’t even gotten to the Hostas, Trees, and Shrubs yet. Oh my… stay tuned.

Thalicturm Evening Star photo copyright Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.


Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2012

Mid way through the eighth month of the year, I’m happy to report that there are a few things other than Knock Out Roses in bloom. No matter what the weather may bring, my Limelight Hydrangeas never disappoint. In my opinion, this underrated plant deserves to be in the ‘Sensational Shrubs’ category. It’s very low maintenance and the reliable bloom display comes on just as the rest of the garden seems to have petered out. The flower heads are large (6 to 12 inches) and emerge soft lime green, transitioning to cream in high summer. As Autumn arrives, the tiny individual blossoms fade to parchment-tan and pink. By November, dried panicles are perfect for cutting and ready for autumnal arrangments indoors. I’ve even seen a crafty gardener or two weave some panicles into holiday arrangments too!

Also blooming are the old fashioned Hosta plantaginea. These old standbys are a workhorse in the shade garden providing sturdy, upright scapes and shiny lush foliage. This well known Hosta is native to China and was first identified by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in 1789. Because of its many wonderful attributes, it is still used extensively in hybridization today. Hosta plantaginea is a common sight in many older shade gardens and is prized for its very fragrant pure white flowers.

These plants were donated to my hosta garden from a dear friend of my partner. She tells us that the original plants traveled from Germany in a steamer trunk of her great grandmother’s. That would put the journey back into the mid 1870s. While I can’t verify that story, I do know that many Hosta were imported into Europe long before they were in the West, so her timeline would hold true. Hmmm. In any case, generations of Hosta lovers know that few things are as lovely as the perfume of plantaginea in the summer evening air.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a Meme created by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Gardeners post images of what’s blooming in their garden on the 15th day of every month. To see what’s blooming all over the world today, visit Carol’s blog.


Missing Pleasure in The Garden

Gardening has become torturous, and I’ve been mulling over a question in my mind lately. Where is the pleasure in gardening when forces continually work against you? I realize that gardening is not an exact enterprise, and we all have to deal with setbacks here and there. I’m talking about constant interference– the kind that rattles you to the core. It’s been a tough year at Sutherland and I really do hope I don’t sound whiny, but damn, I could use a break here.

It was a dry winter, and we never got back into balance because the spring rains were stingy. Spring was really warm and everything broke dormancy at once. It was really exciting until the frost came. More than once I covered my young Japanese Maples to prevent the tender leaves from damaging frosts. For the most part I succeeded, but some damage could not be completely avoided.

As the beds and borders came to life, it seemed that we were off to a great start. Still could use a little more rain, but that would surely come. Then while strolling through the garden one evening, I noticed some light colored markings on the base of my Kiyohime Japanese Maple. The damage was considerable as large sections of the cambium layer were exposed. The cambium layer is the ‘growing’ part of the tree which produces new wood and bark. Extensive damage to this layer is fatal for the tree. I inspected all the other young trees and to varying degrees, found similar damage on every one of them. We’ve had beaver damage in the past, but this had to be something else. A beaver could/should have taken down the thin trees entirely. In the end, we lost only one very young Black Gum tree. Was it the work of the new groundhog family? Squirrels? Still not sure, but to prevent further damage, we wrapped the little trunks with a vermin proof jacket.

I was on high alert to catch the culprits and witnessed a squirrel doing a strange little jig around one the trees once. Still, I couldn’t be sure that was what had caused the damage. Then one morning as I made my way to the back yard to begin my watering ritual, I spied one of the container trees lying on its side. As I approached to stand it up, I noticed something that really shocked me. This new tree had been vandalized. Only an eighth of the original tree remained. It was particularly disconcerting as human tresspassing is a rarity. The layout of the property does not lend itself to easy access. Trying to make sense of it, I obsessed over this random act of vandalism for many days. I wanted to believe that it was the work of a beaver, but the cut was too clean. And why that tree out of dozens of trees on several acres. It still mystifies me.

If that weren’t enough, the dry spell slowly gave itself over to a full fledged drought. It’s not news to anyone living in the US. I know we’ve all been dealing with extreme weather situations, but this drought was like a slap in the face. As stated in the previous post, a gardener makes tough choices when battling a drought. In this case, the drought has prevailed. July was a particularly awful month in central Indiana and August shows no signs of improvement. No rain and several repeated days above 100°F were no match for the already parched land. I’ve seen terrible things happening in the garden this year that I’ve never seen. 

Rather than enjoying my garden’s beauty, I’ve spent all spring and summer trying salvage the dreary looking plants. That means dragging around several hundred feet of hose across the lawn for hours– daily. To make matters worse, a watering ban was put into place early July. It stated that one could only water ‘by hand’–no sprinklers or irrigation were allowed. Mind you, we have two acres of beds, borders, and several new trees which were planted last year. There is literally no way we could stand and water those areas ‘by hand’ unless we were willing to stand there 24/7. So, that has led to covert watering operations and very strategic planning on what to water when. Tough choices were indeed made and we had to prioritze what and when plants would get watered. In the begining, I foolishly thought I could keep up with watering everything. It finally hit me a couple of weeks ago. I was fighting a losing battle. The prospect of loss was really weighing on me, and mid way through the month, I realized that everyone would most likely lose some plant material. I would not be alone. The water ban also prohibited any landscape plant installations. Talk about tough– if this was the year one would start a new landscape business, you were sure to go under. I reached out to a friend of mine who owns a landscape company and his report was as expected; sobering. With no irrigation or rain, the mowing jobs had come to a halt. With no installations allowed, and heavy fines at stake, clients were reluctant to forego plants and implement only bed prep or hardscape until the ban was lifted. Like many others, my friend was faced with letting people go. Creative minds saw an opportunity and anyone who owned a large tank or water truck, turned their skeleton crews into watering crews. This would be accomplished by filling up outside the ban area and selling the water and labor to water-restricted clients. Of course, business owners and many residents took advantage of this and the landscape companies are able to recoup a bit of otherwise lost income. The watering crews work pretty much 24/7.

Garden Centers and Nurseries are hurting too. It’s been so extremely hot that no one is working in their gardens, let alone planting anything. Several business have reduced employee headcount drastically, shortened hours of operation, and are even closing a day or two of the week to reduce overhead. That has only complicated things further down the line. The growers who supply the plants to garden centers are now sitting on tons of unsalable inventory.

And the farmers? Well, let’s not go there. It’s really bad. Crops are ruined and no amount of rain will change this now.

It did finally rain yesterday. The thunder that accompanied the rain clouds was startling as the sound has become unfamiliar. We got about 1 inch total– not enough to lift the ban by a long shot. And while I enjoyed looking out over the grayed skies listening to the gentle hushed noise the rain makes as it strikes the surfaces, one thought kept running through my mind. “It’s too little too late.” Tomorrow, I start watering again. 


Tough Choices in Times of Drought

Between work at the garden center and home, I feel like the water wand is permanently attached to my hand. We are experiencing severe drought conditions here in the Midwest and that means we have tough choices to make. If you have to choose between lawn and plants for watering– choose plants.

My lawn (pictured above) has not been mown since late May. It simply has not rained enough for it to grow. Although it looks awful, I’m not too concerned about it. It’s actually gone into dormancy and can stay this way for some time before any irreversible damage* is done. On the other hand, flowers and plants will die off without regular watering. This includes trees and shrubs!

Here are a couple of good articles on watering and dealing with drought: 

Learn to Water Well

The Top 3 Rules for Tree Care

Drought Could Limit Garden Plants’ Development Next Year

If you have tips or techniques you’d like to share on dealing with drought, leave them in the comments section. We can all benefit from each other’s gardening experience.

*Note: If you have recently installed sod or seeded a lawn, you must water it until it is fully established. 


A Touch of Pink

Better late than never, right? I’m JUST now getting around to planting my containers with annuals. I love to challenge myself each year with new plants and colors which I don’t often use. This year is no exception. Here’s a preview of things to come.

Stay tuned for plant names and the finished container arrangements.

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