Thursday, August 27, 2015



 Well, it has been awhile. It is difficult to get back into the habit of writing, recording, and photographing after such a long hiatus: I blame slow internet (until now) and also that cute baby. But now I am back. So here is a hodgepodge of the past week; of gardens I work in, of my own gardens, of plant interests, success and questions. Please feel free to send feedback, answers, or just more questions!

That red plant is Lychnis chalecondica, a nice shocking red in early summer and here it is going for a second round of bloom in August. It is plant, that when blooming, stops people in their tracks. It stopped me the first time I noticed it planted in the stock beds at Great Dixter amongst our beautiful, white flowering fleabane, Erigeron annus.

This is Ipomopsis rubra (standing cypress). The plant looks a lot like Eupatorium capilifolium with its fluffy, bright green foliage heading awkwardly straight upwards, but then it has this striking pink flower! I was particularly shocked to see this type of growth when the whole time I thought I was growing that sweet, twining Cardinal Climber Ipomoea sloteri. Haha, what a surprise.

This is a pool garden that Laurie and I planted three years ago using plants pilfered from other parts of the garden, including an Indigofera (possibly 'Rose Carpet?'-hugging the pools edge and doing fantastically against the rocks) and these wonderful Pennisetum alopecuroides seen here in full flower. We planted about 100 drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) and over the years they have tripled. Last year we cut them back once they went brown, but this year we've let them go to gray and we think they still look good.


I think front-of-the-border annual plants can be a little tricky. I want something lush, full, and interweaving so it is a major success when I stumble across one that I love. Like this Gomphrena 'All Around Purple.' It goes in a little small, but after a few weeks of summer heat the plant takes over whatever spot it is given. It weaves, it bushes, it stays upright (with no flopping) and keeps on blooming and blooming. A great cut too, straight stems of medium length, that can be used in dried arrangements. It is an electric purple so bring on the color. I love it with the silvery Plectranthus 'Silver Shield' pictured here.

And again. Yum.

Clerodendrum trichotomum
A very exciting underused plant around these parts. This one gives a scary zone rating (zone 6 or higher), but in Vermont it comes back happily from the roots. This spring, after a very harsh winter, shoots came up from the base, and are currently heading into flower. Later on, the plant will produce bright, shiny blue berries. 

Glowing white Euphorbia marginata all self sown.

And who is the plant? My guess is a short, fine leaved Helenium, but I cannot find evidence that this type of Helenium exisits...yet. This was a throw away plant with no label, and now it is doing beautifully. Annual, perennial? It is about 5" high and ever blooming.

And lastly, I am in love with Rudbekia triloba, with its clouds and clouds of airy black eyed susan flowers. Here it mingles with Sanguisorba officinalis which I started from seed last year. I planted it in my gravel garden last fall, just as a holding spot, and it has done so well without water or compost. The stems are super strong and straight and not one has flopped. It is behaving very well in these conditions, even though I would have thought it wanted moisture and rich soil. What a nice surprise! I thought I preferred the cultivar 'Tanna,' but actually the straight species offers a bigger effect, slightly larger leaves, taller stems, and bigger flowers. 'Tanna' has a shiny, daintier leaf, smaller, but more burgundy-red colored flowers.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Second Annual Garden Inspirations Workshop

For the second year running, the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont is hosting a Garden Inspirations Workshop and this year the theme is growing vegetables! The workshop includes talks from professional gardeners and growers, offering practical down-to-earth advice regarding all things growing, from seed selection in late winter, to sowing and planting in spring and summer, to harvesting, and even to cooking and preparing home grown vegetables. It is a great time to get inspired for the coming growing season and all the proceeds benefit the restoration and upkeep of our lovely, historic theater in downtown Brattleboro. See below for program details and information on how to reserve your tickets!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Swift River Meadow Garden

After a long, full, busy summer, I am happy to finally find some time to see gardens, take photographs and post again. The autumn has been beautiful, with the air turning cool and crisp and leaves changing and beginning to fall. Last week I ventured to Petersham, MA to see Bruce Lockhart at Swift River Farm. Last time I was there, we were digging, moving, and planting in the meadow garden, rearranging, adding new plants, and pulling weeds. It was such a pleasure to see the meadow garden in full glory (I would say "peak), with foliage changing colors, all the seed heads upright and fading, and the plants at their fullest and wildest. Not to mention all the grasses now looking their best.

I was complimenting Bruce on the way the meadow felt, like a garden and also like a meadow. He pointed out that there seemed to be a nice balance of large blocks of plants (like large groups of the above Agastache 'Blue Fortune'), but also lots of plants dispersed more wildly through the beds, like the seed heads of the Digitalis ferruginea (also pictured above).

A nice combination of the Agastache with the Amsonia hubrichtii and Oregano 'Rosenkuppel.'

Rudbekia subtomentosa 'Henry Eliers' weaving through the Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate.' The Rudbekia can get very floppy in rich soils, but here in the meadow where is it a little more water and nutrient deprived, the plant is better behaved. 

The rest of the garden also looked great such as this spot here with the Yews rising out of a sea of Amsonia.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Plants at The Bunker Farm Nursery

At long last, here are some pictures of the nursery at The Bunker Farm along with some of its good looking plants. The Nursery has done well this spring, thanks to all you avid gardeners out there, and there are still plants for sale! We are open every Saturday from 12-5pm and by appointment (email: Right now we have lots of unusual annuals, but later this summer we will have more and more perennials available for purchase. 

Ursinia speciosa

Panicum elegans 'Frosted Explosion'

Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Bronze'

Antirrhinum 'Appleblossom'

Hibiscus 'Simply Love'
I am pretty sure the name says it all and just the picture of the flower alone made me order the seeds. Each plant is bushy and covered in buds and my guess is that it will bloom in a hot sunny spot all summer.

Asperula orientalis 'Blue Surprise'
I only got two seeds to germinate, but this is one of the seedlings grown up into a gorgeous long blooming ground cover. Apparently it is hardy to zone 4. I will try for better germination next year!

Malope trifida 'Vulcan'
This is one of the many plants I learned about at Great Dixter last year and managed to grow. It is doing beautifully and blooming profusely in my garden.

Helipterum 'Pierrot'
A really nice strawflower, should last all season.

Impatiens namchabarwensis 'Blue Daimond'
Grown from seed this year and growing strong.

Emilia coccinea (syn. javanica) 'Scarlet Magic'
Tassle flower, an all time favorite annual and will bloom, if deadheaded, until frost. 

Cosmidium burridgeanum 'Philippine'
 This is a new annual to me, but according to Diane Seeds, it is one of her all time favorites and will bloom until frost. It does have a wonderful wispy wiriness in the way it grows. Almost all the very good gardeners who came through my greenhouse noticed this plant and bought it based on its foliage and growth habit alone. It is a good plant, thanks Diane!

Linaria triornithophora rosea
Another one of Diane's favorites, the Three Bird Toadflax. She says it is a perennial in her zone 5 garden, so I am hoping that will be true for us as well. The plants are very strong and have beautiful foliage tinged red with a very sturdy upright habit. And a totally beautiful flower!

And a nice Asarina antirrhiniflora coccinea, a climbing snapdragon vine. I saw a whole table of these at Hampton Court and thought, I have to grow this! It took forever to germinate, but now they are here and starting to climb.

 So please come by and see what we are up to! You can check out a blog post by Michael Gordon on his visit to the greenhouse here:

And you can check out the plant list here:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring at the Bunker Farm

Happy Spring, I think it is finally here in Vermont. With the arrival of 10 lambs, with more to come, it is not hard to feel a little more springy and hopeful. One sheep dropped quadruplets and was so worn out we bottle fed the babies in the kitchen the first night. She took two back and we continue to feed the other two bottles six times a day. In the last week I learned how to milk a sheep, tube feed, and encourage nursing.

Gardening only just started for me, so for the long month of March we focused on harvesting locust posts, splitting firewood, and milling for various building projects. Mike has been very busy in the sugar bush. We had a slow start, but ended on a high note, delivering around 15,000 gallons of sap to a local sugar maker.

Noah has spent a fair amount of time logging trees on the property and running the mill. Here he is making siding for our barn restoration project.

Luckily our friend Avery arrived on the farm for a month and we put him to work replacing old carrying beams and siding.

I spent the month in the greenhouse building benches, setting up the heat, and sowing seeds. My father came and helped build a prototype bench and I built the remaining seven. I found galvanized, heavy gauge, woven panels to use as tops and built sturdy frames under them. I am very pleased with my tables!

And I have quickly outgrown the space!

On the other side we have greens galore, planted last autumn they all survived the arctic temperatures with no heat. They continue to amaze us and sustain us! The farm will be open Saturdays 10-5 all spring and summer. It is a good time to come and check out the animals and we will have meat, greens, and plants for sale. Hope to see you soon.

We also have a website (still under construction):

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Alonsoa 'The Rebel'


Recently, I found this picture of Alonsoa 'The Rebel,' an annual I grew from seed last year. I ordered this seed, not knowing the plant at all, lured in by the description of an old fashioned plant with coral colored flowers. It was smaller and more sprawly than I imagined it would be, looking a great deal like a Diascia, but with an intense orange pink bloom and shrubby ground covering foliage. The plant crawled about, but the stems curved upright, carrying their little flowers. As the days shortened and the temperatures dropped, the plant seemed to come into its own. I don't know if it was because of the changing season, or the plant just needed more time to develop, but it was wonderful to see a plant at its best in October. I guess I am a sucker for those late bloomers.

Here the Alonsoa gives a nice footing to the Northern Sea Oats grass, Chasmanthium latifolium.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Project at Juniper Hill

Photo credit: Joe Valentine

Last summer Joe Valentine from Juniper Hill, and his wife Paula Hunter, asked me design a small border. They have a gorgeous garden and are already incredibly accomplished gardeners, so I wasn't sure what I could possibly offer. Joe said he wanted an exuberant border, packed with interesting plants and full of late season flowers.  I drew up a design and sent a plant list; it was a go. The above photo is of the garden space dug over and prepped by Joe and Paula.

On a hot and humid day in June I laid out the plants and planted.

Photo Credit: Joe Valentine

 After I planted, I didn't see the garden again until October.

I like the foreground/background pictured here. The view is framed in coppery-red, with the Acer and Syringa 'Tinkerbell' on the left and red crab apple dots on the right. In the middle is a lively green Miscanthus and a topiaried Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'. In the foreground is purple Verbena with Zinna Bearny's Giant Lime, Bronze fennel in full flower, and the white flowers of Boltonia asteroides 'Snowbank.' The beautiful design and structure of the larger garden offers contrast in scale, style and from to the intricacy and wildness of the perennial and annual planting.

One of my favorite Dalhia's, 'Karma Prosero'- a mellow light pink for this time of year, but on very dark, erect stems. Here the Tagetes 'Cinnabar' weaves through.

The Tagetes all leaned over the wall towards the sun, and luckily the rocks helped prop up and show off its wandering habit.

Photo credit: Joe Valentine
 And presently, the garden in winter.