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 trees (5)


Dog Days of Spring

Elegant flowers on this native tree

One of my favorite spring flowering trees is the native dogwood (Cornus florida).  In my neck of the woods, flowering dogwoods light up shady woodlands with big white blossoms this time of year.  They look so ornamental that most would suspect they were planted as part of a master landscape plan.  I didn't have any of these "wild" trees when I started my garden but have added a few over the years.  I didn't treat them like specimen trees, but planted them at the woodland edge just like Mother Nature.


The white dogwood pictured here has bloomed reliably since I first brought it home from Home Depot several years ago.  It has doubled in height and width since planting.  In very dry summers, it does get powdery mildew, but never loses its leaves.

I also have a larger pink dogwood cultivar that I bought from a nursery years before the white one.  I would love to show you pictures of its blooms, but there aren't many and most are on the top of tree, requiring you to get up high to see them.  The tree has grown well, but has never produced an abundance of flowers.  I think this pink cultivar may require more sun than it gets to set blooms.

After seeing so many dogwoods peaking out from the woods on my drive to work this week, I think I may poke a few more into my woodland setting this year.   I'll skip the expensive ones at the nurseries and look for a few more from Home Depot.  I'm sure those are already on sale.





And the Winner Is...

Inspired by last night's Oscars, I thought it might be nice to give a shout-out to the stars of my garden last year.  Overall, it turned out to be one of the best seasons (even though Hurricane Irene stormed the stage during Act III).  Stellar performances were made by both established plants and young, rising stars.


My first award goes to the best "comeback".  After several seasons of lackluster presentatons, Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nikko Blue' came back this past season with the most blooms ever.  Following a spectacular opening in June, this hydrangea returned to the stage periodically all summer with fresh, blue flowers.


Nikko Blue hydrangea

Best overall performance last year was from the June blooming Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa). Huge, creamy blooms covered every branch.  Unfortunately, this woody star always needs a season off following such a packed performance.  2012 will predictably be a less inspiring show.


Kousa dogwood

The award for best plant in a supporting role goes to my Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris). They are so easy to grow.   I use them all over the garden to help frame other plants, fill in large shaded areas and add low-maintenance drama.

Ostrich fern

The best new performer of the season was the Echinacea purpurea 'B's Knees'.  I discovered this new star at a local nursery last year.  Its deep magenta color and lower height made this coneflower perfect for the expanded bed behind the pool.

B's Knees coneflower

Best visual effects goes to my favorite autumn performer, Aster oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite', which took on a more important role after being divided to fill a much larger stage.  The huge drift of blueish-purple asters seem to echo the fall sky.

Raydon's Favorite aster

And I have to give a lifetime achievement award to Hemerocallis 'Hyperion'.  Like Meryl Streep, this icon continues to give strong performances every season.  Tall, bold and fragrant, Hyperion daylilies put on a show not to be missed in my Hamptons Garden.

Hyperion daylily

 I thought we should have one award for a foreign production.  One standout from my trip to Italy last year was this purple bearded iris.  I have always loved this type of iris, but have yet to plant any. Maybe this will be the year to put one to work in my show.

Purple bearded iris in Florence, Italy

With the wacky weather we've had so far this year, it's anyone's guess which plant will steal the spotlight in 2012.  So stay tuned.


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.