Hello Fellow Readers,
Fall is for gathering in the coziness of the season. I recently had the joy of visiting my piano teacher from way back when. She’s now a grand 89 years wise. I’m not sure how long ago she became “Mom J” (J for Jackson) but have fond memories of her 80th birthday party when she introduced me as her “other daughter”. Her daughter Dot is also a cherished friend since childhood and we all share the love of digging in the dirt. It was our plan to visit Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. As it turned out Mom J wasn’t up for a gallivant. I didn’t mind as it gave us a chance to tend to the Jackson Garden.
We cut back the Shasta Daisy’s retired stalks (Leucanthemum × superbum). Below, next year’s growth remains an evergreen carpet of the promise of spring; one of the reasons this classic white daisy is a favorite. Mom J’s Astilbe (Astilbe chinensis) were crispier than usual due to the draught. We cut back the foliage but kept the seed heads which are wonderful left standing for winter interest. Then there’s glorious Morning Glory vines; hers still squeaking a bloom here and there. I sought out seeds to bring home. “I used to save them too,” shared Mom J, “then forget about them come spring.” With annuals that are prolific self-seeders such as morning glory, ageratum, and nicotiana, why not sow their seeds in fall. Nothing to lose and only to gain rather than forget to sow what you’ve gathered.
Dot asked if we should cut back the lavender. Unlike most herbs, lavender is considered a woody shrub which is best left standing. Come spring cut back what dies back over winter.
I’ve never had luck with Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) likely because they prefer alkaline soil with good drainage and mine is acidic. Mom J shared the history of her beloved “family plant” which came from her mother’s garden in Maine. “I’ve given pieces of it to all four children and they have plants growing in their gardens.” What a lovely legend and somewhat of a miracle as Baby’s Breath doesn’t like to be disturbed once established.
Another miracle is her Oxalis triangularis, commonly called Purple Shamrock or Love Plant due to its three purple heart shaped leaves. Its typically a houseplant as its hardy in zones 8a to 11. Mom J is in a zone 6b yet hers is thriving outside. True, her charming little garden is in a microclimate tucked next to the foundation. She insisted I take a portion of her Love Plant home. “I hope the little oxalis will grow and bloom for you next year!” No doubt the love planted by Mom J will thrive in my heart forever.
Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com
A visit to Longwood Gardens as a child is one of my first memories of falling in love with gardens thanks to my dear Momma. Mom J, Dot and I visited Longwood in early spring last year. The topiaries of the various critters grew bigger than life from what I remember as a kid.
During this recent visit, I strolled around the parking lot Exton Square Mall where my Momma taught me to drive; one of many milestones she coached me through. And, I played a few chords on Mom J’s piano on which I was taught. I am so grateful for the lessons of both of my Moms.