Garden Wisdom

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.."  -Alfred Austin



About Me

Jeff, Gardener in Chief

Contrary to popular opinion, some people in the Hamptons enjoy getting their hands dirty. I'm a self-taught gardener in East Hampton, NY that enjoys sharing my gardening experiences and inspiration with others. Hope you enjoy my blog and galleries.

Read more about me and my garden here.


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Entries in flowering shrubs (16)


The Perfect Fit

Compact Korean Azalea

Last year, I needed a filler plant for a small area in the back garden.  I had extended a planting bed into the adjacent shady area where grass was too challenged to grow.  This bed is backed by a large Rhododendrons.  Since I liked how my native azaleas (Rhododendron viscosum) had grown into another large-leafed evergreen rhododendron nearby, I though adding a deciduous azalea here would work too.  But I also wanted spring color. (My native azaleas bloom in summer.) 

The new space was small.  So when I found a Korean azalea labeled "compact", I thought I'd give it a try.  Its mature size will only be four feet wide and two feet tall.  When I bought this small cultivar (Azalea poukhanense 'Compacta'), it was out of bloom, but the picture on the attached label showed a rosy-purple flower. 

When it bloomed this spring, it looked a bit more purple which I actually prefer.  Combined with a bright green hosta in front, this new addition really adds a bright punch to this once forgotten corner of my garden. 

More purple than pink blooms


Let It All Hang Out

Long, unpruned braches curve gracefully downward.

As the last flowers of my forsythia fall to the ground, I thought how shapely my shrub has become in bloom and out.  Unlike some of my hollies and boxwoods, I prefer to leave forsythia in its natural state.  Its long slender branches rise up and curve downward with such a graceful form.  I do occasionally prune out extremely vertical limbs, but for the most part I leave it alone.

I drive by many houses where the forsythia have been pruned severely into unnatural shapes like globes and squares.  Extreme pruning or pruning too late eliminates most of the beautiful yellow spring blooms.  So during bloom time, you will see these clipped shrubs with only tufts of yellow on the top or on the sides where pruning didn't cut as deeply into old growth.  These sparse clusters of blooms remind of a child who tried to cut his own hair.

I say, "let it all hang out".  Put your forsythias in beds and borders where they can take on a more natural shape.  Save your topiary skills for your evergreens.



Another Must-Have for Your Bookshelf (and iPhone)

Original edition

Recently, I proclaimed my adoration for The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.  Today, I'd like to share with you my go-to book for trees and shrubs.  Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Michael Dirr was one of the most useful birthday gifts that I've ever received.

When I was given this tome, I was just beginning my garden (click here for a look back at my blank canvas).  I desired trees and shrubs that looked natural but also added some drama.  Of course, I also needed them to be suitable for my specific climate and growing conditions. 

Revised edition


Each Saturday morning at the breakfast table, I would start flipping through this book filled with hundreds of landscape and close-up shots of woody plants. When a tree or shrub caught my eye,  I would stop and read Dirr's personal comments about the candidate, allowing me to judge its suitability. 

 Dirr also wrote a companion book, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.  This was included with my initial gift. This manual gives much more detailed information on each plant's growing requirements, complete descriptions of leaf/flower shapes and colors, line drawings to help identify leaves and buds, and thorough descriptions of cultivars.

I've learned that both of these earlier books are now merged in a revised edition, Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs.

Sometimes, I can be a bit old-fashioned.  I still like printed books. However, Dirr's Tree & Shrub Finder app for the iPhone is truly amazing! (At $14.99 it's the most expensive app I've purchased thus far, but I know it will get a lot of use.)


You can search for plants by common name or scientific name.



Don't know the exact plant you want or need?  You can search by light demands, moisture requirements, hardiness zones, size, growth rate, foliage type, flower color, blooming season, etc.


It's filled with photos so you can hold it up to your garden and see how a plant might look there.  You can also leave the big books at home. Take the app to the nursery.  How convenient!



Whether you're a print book person or a digital person (or both like me), Michael Dirr makes it easy and fun to choose the best trees and shrubs for your garden.  However, you're still stuck with the hard work of planting.