My Foxgloves’ Progression

I have not yet successfully grown foxgloves, the quintessential cottage-garden plant. Three times I have tried this elusive plant from nursery started plants. I have tried three different locations so far.

Dreaming of that cottagey look, first I grew it along my garage wall near my climbing roses where it had a southern exposure. It bloomed well but not as tall as I’d hoped and did not return for a second year. The next time I grew it on the NE corner of my house near a vintage climbing rose.  In the second year I saw a rosette of its leaves form but it only achieved spindly, nonflowering growth. The next time I bought a plant at Fellows Riverside Garden’s (FRG) plant sale where I was assured it was the biennial type. I grew it in its original pot with a southern exposure once more. It did seed itself around the container but the following spring the plants were once again gone.

I have once again succumbed to the siren call of the charming flower spikes that could easily be worn by any fox so inclined.  I again purchased a plant at FRG’s plant sale because I love it and I don’t think I’ve provided poor growing conditions but rather failed to ensure correct conditions for propagation.

This time I researched foxglove propagation in my copy of The American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation book. I’m guessing the failure to return has to do with the conditions I have provided for propagation. Plant Propagation says “…foxgloves require a temperature of 70°F (21°C) in light to germinate…” I am paying special attention to the “in light” part of this recommendation. I’m thinking that the self-sown seeds have never had enough light to germinate since my plants are tightly packed. So I plan two new methods to help germination.

  1. I will find a more open spot for the foxglove
  2. I will collect seed and sow it myself  

Maybe this year I will be successful; I won’t know until 2013.  Gardening is all about waiting and watching. I can only paraphrase Thomas Jefferson “Though I am an old [wo]man, I am but a young gardener.” I am, after all, a Work In Progress Gardener.

Sedum and Succulent Dish Garden

I am just learning the vast varieties of Sedum and the creative ways they are being planted. I have grown Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ for years and enjoy how it takes care of itself. I even know how to make frog bellies from its leaves. Many years past I lost hens and chicks because I didn’t follow its cultural needs – I put it on a shady porch and over-watered it!

Last year I planted a decorative bird cage with some hens and chicks for the Wildlife Watch garden (see photo). It contained green- and purple-leaved varieties but only the green ones survived the winter outside.

Sempervivum tectorum

Since I had the succulent class this week and bought three new sedum varieties, I decided to plant a dish garden using the sedums with the hens and chicks. The photo shows my resulting dish garden planted in a terra cotta saucer.

 If you think of the saucer as a clock face, my sedum locations will correspond as follows:   

  • October Daphne or stonecrop (Sedum sieboldii) is the central plant where a clock’s hand would attach. It curves upwards and has red edges on the leaves.
  • At one o’clock is a yellow flowering sedum that I think is Sedum ‘Angelina.’
  • At four o’clock is Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce.’  
  • The three small rosettes from seven o’clock and wrapping around the stone are hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum).
  • At ten o’clock is the green moss sedum. I’m not sure if this it’s official nomenclature; it may be a sedum acre.
  • At eleven o’clock is Sedum dasyphyllum ‘Himalayan Skies.’

If you are a connoisseur of sedum and see that I’ve misnamed some varieties, please let me know so I can update my Work-In-Progress Garden.  

Garden Journal for May 18, 2012

Plants blooming in my garden on today, May 18th are:


Alliums, Muscari (a couple on the wall), bearded iris (different variety), Jack in the pulpit (corm)


Columbines, Solomon’s Seal (waning, seeds forming), Thalictrum (waxing), sweet woodruff (waning), Geraniums (newer cultivars now also in bloom), Forget-me-nots, Lunaria (waning, pods forming)), Tradescantia, Trillium, Brunnera, Dianthus, creeping thyme (full bloom), sedums (waxing), catmint (waxing), yarrow (waxing), lady’s mantle (full)


Clematis (full!), Dutch man’s pipe (full)  


Azalea (nearly done), Japanese flowering quince (still a few blooms!), Rhododendron (full), lilacs (sparse bloom this year), peonies (waxing), mock orange (bud stage), container rose (need to check records for the name), wall rose (check records for name), heirloom climbing rose (unknown name, bud stage)


Heliotrope, Alyssum


As I posted before, I use the term ‘waxing’ (as in moon stage) to represent those flowers between bud stage and full lush bloom. As blooms are declining or finishing from full bloom stage, I use the term ‘waning’ (also as in moon stage).

This week I’ve reformatted my categories to all caps and a larger, colored non-serif font. learning how to format WordPress will have to wait for another day. 

 I also expanded the category ‘BULBS’ to ‘BULBS, CORMS AND RHIZOMES.’ I then moved iris to this more definitive category.  I also moved roses from ‘PERENNIALS’ (which they are technically) to ‘SHRUBS AND TREES’ where they are usually listed in my horticultural resources.

I also want to note here that it has been nine days since I took bloom inventory. This was due to familial duties but I want to also pay attention to the differing time spans between the bloom inventories. My ideal is to record blooms weekly on the same day but I have yet to achieve this. After all I am still a Work In Progress gardener.

I am the original creator of the content and ideas written above. © Susan Berlin – 2012 All Rights Reserved

Plant Shopping 5-17-12

Trumbull County Extension’s Home Yard and Garden Information Programs are arranged by Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs). They offer further educational credits and provide information for county residents too. Today’s presentation was given by a (very private and therefore unnamed) MGV on the subject of succulents. The focus today was on Sedum, a member of the Crassulaceae family of succulents. The most well-known sedum is probably Hens & Chicks.

We saw many different sedums and learned their idiosyncrasies specific to our locale. Many of us went home with $2 sedums propagated from the speaker’s home garden. I got a linear variegated and a green moss sedum (see photo). I have some volunteer sedums that are thriving and want to grow these with it. I have had trouble growing sedums despite their reputation ass easy-to-care for plants. Our speaker stressed that many sedums want superb drainage. I think this is the secret to my volunteer’s success. It grows over what was once a gravelly driveway turn-around. Time will tell.

But that wasn’t all the shopping for the day.  Fellows Riverside Gardens (FRG) began its annual, three-day Spring Plant Sale today. FRG is one of the jewels of Youngstown, Ohio and operated by Mill Creek MetroParks. The twelve-acre display garden is free and open to the public. Their plant sale offers many hard-to-find plants. I’ve been going for about 15 years and my garden still has many of my FRG purchases.

delphinium, foxglove, alyssum, and sedum
Today’s FRG buys!

Today’s FRG purchases were: Delphinium ‘Bellamosum’ (larkspur), Digitalis x mertonensis (foxglove), Alyssum ‘Snow Crystals’ (sweet alyssum) and Sedum dasyphyllum ‘Himalayan Skies’ (stonecrop). The picture shows them as listed, top to bottom and with the sedum on the left.

Down the Bessemer Brick Path

About four years ago Jack laid a brick path for me made from bricks that came from our street. The bricks were torn out during a repaving project. We asked if we could have some and we gathered them from the piles in front of our house and two neighbors’ frontages.  We couldn’t use a wheelbarrow because of the muddy hills of bricks on the sidewalks. We would have gathered more but we went to Michigan for the birth of our grandson. Some things are more important than the garden. Family first!

Vintage Bessemer Brick

The bricks were engraved on one side with “Bessemer Youngstown O Block” (see photo). Today I researched the company and found some information about the company from a blog called ‘brickfrog’ (at Brickfrog collects antique bricks out of Boston! Brickfrog lists the information as from: Dependable Highways, Vol. 3, Nos. 3-9, 1916.

It seems that our bricks were made by Bessemer Limestone Co., Youngstown, Ohio. The company advertised they were the “licensed manufacturers of Dunn-Wire-Cut Lug Brick.” If you look at the four corners of the brick in the photo you can see the lugs. I’m guessing this engraved side was faced down toward the ground with the smooth side facing up. Jack decided that putting the lug-side up would keep the bricks from becoming slippery when wet. I didn’t care for walking on the lugs but wasn’t about to turn all the bricks over – I have weeds waiting for me! Now I’m glad he laid them this way so I could find out their history.

These bricks fit right in with our house; it was built c. 1910. I particularly like the wayAntique Bessemer Brick the brick appear as the moss grows on them. Perhaps I should not be allowing this because it could break down the embossed lettering. I’m hoping brickfrog or other collectors find my blog and explain the best way to treat my antique pavers. My knowledge of vintage bricks is a work-in-progress too!

Weedy Knowledge

I have a plethora of weeds!

When I weed I like to get up close and personal. Why? Maybe it’s because I can better differentiate between the good guys and bad guys. Maybe it’s because my garden is a cottage-style garden where the plants grow all higgledy-piggledy and cheek by jowl. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of using the garden fork like a thug and want to edit with my fingers. Maybe it’s because I want to be on my knees and near the soil.

Touching the soil and plants is the way I get to know my garden personally. Perhaps I should even thank the weeds for providing the goading that gets me into all of the various beds at least once per year.  So I get down on my knees and tease out the roots of those devil plants that dare to be in the wrong place. This is when I notice what’s really happening in the garden. I feel the tilth of the soil, notice what minute organisms are aerating the soil. Sometimes I find flowers or leaves of plants I forgot I had. Sometimes I see something I’d never noticed before and such was the case today.

I was weeding the brick path of a shade garden that had been infiltrated with wild violets and mouse ears when I pulled out a root structure (corm?) with a leaf emerging (see photo). I didn’t recognize this particular root and leaf combination so I was intrigued. The root/corm reminded me of Heuchera’s but the emerging foliage did not match Heuchera. I decided to dig it back in and observe it over the next few weeks. As I dug it in I noticed other similar leaves emerging in the area. Some came attached to what appeared to be a seed ball. I noticed larger emerging leaves that had the same speckled appearance on the stalk. I think all of these emerging leaves are Jack-in-the-pulpits or Arisaema triphyllum like these open ones shown in the second photo. I’m still going to watch the plants though to see if I’m right.

So pulling weeds and carefully checking what comes up during the digging can actually help the gardener grow. The process allows for close inspection of what’s growing and this gives me reasons to research and learn more about the work-in-progress garden. What do your weeds teach you?

Plants Called Mothers

Since I have a garden blog and have a passion for plant names, Latin and common, I thought I’d list some plants that are commonly called mother:

  • Mother-of-thyme, Thymus serpyllum
  • Mother spleenwort Asplenium bulbiferum aka mother fern
  • Mother-of-the-Evening – Hesperis matronalis aka dame’s rocket; more fragrant at evening
  • Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe daigremontiana
  • Mother of Millions, Mother of thousands Kalanchoe delagoensis (succulent)
  • Mother of thousands Saxifraga sarmentosa
  • Thousand mothers Tolmiea menziesii
  • Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Sansevieria trifasciata (aka snake plant)
  • Motherwort Leonurus cardiaca (mint family, grows wild in 46 states, considered weedy by USDA)

Do you grow any of these mother plants? What is your experience with them? Do you like them? Do you know other plants with mother in their name? Please let me know so I can add them to a database of common names I’m creating. Of course, the database is a work-in-progress too.

Garden Journal for May 9, 2012

It has been a very busy week preparing for the plant sale and I forgot to post my blooms for the second week of May 2012. I did, however, take a photo journal on May 9, 2012. I will use those photos to make my official list for plants blooming during the second week of May 2012. Many are still blooming from last week and are included so I can track how long blooms last and how those bloom periods overlap.

Plants blooming in my garden May 9th were:

Bulbs: giant alliums, Star of Bethlehem, Hyacinthoides (white, pink, purple and blue), Muscari (waning/finishing)

Perennials: Columbines, Solomon’s Seal, Thalictrum, sweet woodruff, bearded iris, Geraniums, Forget-me-nots, Lunaria, Ajuga, Tradescantia, Trillium, Brunnera, Dianthus, creeping thyme (full bloom), container rose (need to check records for the name)

Shrubs/trees: Azalea, Japanese flowering quince (amazingly still with bloom though waning/finishing), Rhododendron (full bloom), and lilacs (waxing/beginning)

Since my journal is a work-in-progress too, I’ve decided this week to delete those things no longer in bloom and highlight things newly in bloom. I’m also developing a way to track the bloom stage. I’m using the term ‘waxing’ (as in moon stage) for flowers that are between bud stage and full lush bloom. As blooms are declining or finishing from full bloom stage, I’m using the term ‘waning’ (also as in moon stage).

Let me know what you think? Is the highlighting easy enough to read? Does waxing and waning make sense to you when applied to bloom stage?

I am the original creator of the content and ideas written above. © Susan Berlin – 2012 All Rights Reserved

Springtime at the Garden 2012


Perennial Plant Association’s 2012 plant of the year

OSUE Trumbull County Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) are having their annual plant sale tomorrow, May 12, 2012. Today we organized plants donated from MGV’s personal gardens. We have sun and shade perennials, herbs, vegetables, and shrubs. We will also have vendors selling crafts, jewelry, and succulents. One of our own MGVs will give a free presentation: “Container Gardening with Vegetables and Adaptive Gardening Tips.” Trumbull 4H will offer lunch items for sale.

We also hope to have the Perennial Plant Association’s 2012 plant of the year: Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost.’ However, we are having some difficulty finding a large enough supply of this favorite shade plant (see PPA’s photo above). The Perennial Plant Association ( says they annually choose a plant that is noticeably better than its genera competition. The chosen plant must grow across growing climates, be easy to care for with multiple-season appeal and exhibit pest and superior disease resistance.

Proceeds from this sale help Trumbull County MGVs offer many services to Trumbull County residents.  Our programs offer Eldercare Enrichment at local nursing homes, School Enrichment at several middle schools, and a hotline for home, yard and garden queries. We also offer monthly presentations on various gardening subjects.

We also maintain a RED (research, education, and development) sample garden that educates via three component gardens. The quarter acre garden shows what a homeowner can accomplish in just one quarter of an acre. It includes herb, annuals, perennials, grasses, and rose sections. The RED garden also includes Sunplace Special: A Children’s Garden (where I volunteer most of my time) and a Phenology Garden. Sunplace Special is a garden designed to introduce kids to gardening and the great outdoors. The Phenology Garden is part of OSU’s Phenology Garden Network that studies “recurring biological phenomena and their relationship to weather” through dozens of gardens across Ohio. You can learn more here:

I find the MGV work rewarding on many different levels and hope to contribute for some time at the Wildlife Watch area of Sunplace Special. Even though we’ve been working on it for four years it still remains an ongoing effort, a diamond in the rough, a Work In Progress Garden!



IPhone Back!

Today at 5:30 pm I got my iPhone exchange phone. I now have to box up the old, broken iPhone and send it back to Apple within 10 days. If the problem is under warranty all will be well, else I’ll be buying this new iPhone. My contract is up in 120 days and I want a new version but will have to see Apple’s verdict first. As far as I know nothing catastrophic happened to the iPhone that will negate the warranty. Time will tell – fingers crossed.