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Hort Chat – November 18th, 2010

Home of Shirley Stancik

This was our first Hort Chat not under the able leadership of Joan Sargent.  She was under the weather for a few minutes but will be back for our next outing in January 17th.  The location is to be determined.   The subject was, nonetheless, of her choosing:  What was your most and least successful gardening endeavor this past season.  At 25 attendees, this was our largest Hort Chat so the chatting advice was really varied and very informative.

Anita Gilbert’s hostas were great in August this year despite the drought.  Her peonies contracted awful mildew however.  We were all warned by Jane Wappler not to put such mildew infested cuttings in our compost piles.

Mary Tanzi had great heuchera in the spring but her astilbe did not fare well.  All of her native plants did better than the hybrids from the nurseries.

Diane Beck put in a new garden in June.  She didn’t think of where the sun would be going as the summer continued so in July and August, many plants were burned, even her rhodys.  Better to think ahead as to where the shade will be in late summer.

In Jane Wappler’s garden, all her plants did well last summer even with the drought.  Her shade garden is getting overcrowded.  She is planting vegetable seeds now before it gets too cold.  Her Italian parsley got to be 3 feet tall last year. It’s also a good time to be planting annual seeds now so they will get an early jump on spring.

Becky Barlow peonies were great last year, as were her hydrangeas.  A long discussion ensued as to when to prune your hydrangeas.  Becky will prune hers this week-end (mid-November).  Annabell should be cut to the 8” level and it is a good plant to divide.

Judy Neville had great roses and baptisia this year.  She only cuts her baptisia back when it is well gone by.  She puts peony rings around her baptisia as well.  Judy has her white pines and cedars tipped every three years so they don’t fall.

Susan Rein is having trouble with her day lilies not blooming any more.  She was advised to divide them and see how that did.  Buy a hatchet first.  Her hydrangeas were also looking pretty bad so the advice was to cut them to the ground and sacrifice the blooms for one year.

Carol Bain’s peonies did not bloom for as long this year.  Her dahlias were great.  For the winter, she stores them in the basement in brown paper bags.  Jayne Rogers puts hers in peat and vermiculite in brown bags but it is important for them to be able to get air.  Once they go through a hard freeze, the leaves turn black and the stems collapse, get them out of the ground. They can’t freeze and thaw repeatedly during the winter like they might in a garage. 

Lisa Bitting didn’t spray for deer last year so had lots of bad damage.  She put vinca down under her perennials but it choked out a lot of the perennials.

Ellen Zumbach had a great year for thyme in the pavers in the front of her house.  She got some cleome – Senorita Roserita – from Christine Jordan which grew to 3 feet with a fuscia color.

Jane Gamber used lots of water this year which encouraged her new rhodys to thrive.

Mary Griffin had great yarrow this year along with vinca.  Her peonies were also infested with mildew.  Must be the micro-climates in town.

Tricia Albus’s lavender did great in the heat as did her phlox.  Her flowering vinca did not need water this year to thrive.  It’s an annual though so you have to replant it.  She bought it in plant form.

Fran O’Neil had great roses this year in the heat.  She is planting perennial seeds now where the other plants have died back so she can see where to plant them.  She is also planting annual seeds, like larkspur.  The rest of her garden was really hurt by the drought.

Marcie Blod’s Annabell hydrangeas were great this year.  She cut them back to about 30” in the spring.  Her roses were also very strong as were her dahlias from Swan Island.  She tried big dahlias as well and was given advice as to how to winter them over.  The new plant grows from the eyes, not the neck.  The neck is old stem.  Break off the tubers, let the eyes set up, include a  tuber and an eye for each plant you want to replant.  Separate them in the spring. If this is too obtuse, call Jayne or Marcie.

Shiela McMann had good luck with lavender and agapanthus as well.

Caroline Garrity is letting her agapanthus stay out all winter this year.  It did well last year so she’s trying it again.  She had to replace a number of trees in the spring so waited for the big sale at Oliver’s in June were they were all half price.  Her privet hedge suffered much from deer antler brush-ups.  Her solution, which is working, was to take two huge spools of fishing line from Walmart and string it all around her yard to two levels – at 3’ and again at 5’.  Even though the deer can’t see it, they dislike coming in contact with it and remember its presence when they think of coming back into her yard – novel approach.

Gil Foster had the greatest summer ever in her garden.  Her phlox were spectacular in the absence of mildew-producing rain.

Alice Parker has a watering system so her garden did not suffer from the drought.  Her large leaf heuchera is undergoing a sun experiment to see where it likes best.

Shirley Stancik also has a watering system and had a good year.  She has absolutely no weeks in her front yard – they must have come over to the Reins.  Her Glory Blue hydrangea bloomed for the first time.  Her Niko blue was also good.  Her iris bloomed twice – again in October.  It is Bristol Jet.

Andrea Wells says she has the perfect garden.  No one questioned her so I guess she is right.


The second topic involved how you put your garden to bed in the fall.  What are the one or two things you do that makes you feel that you are done?

Anita cuts out the sickly plants.  Mary leaves her garden as it is to look at during the winter cold.  Diane fertilizes her peonies, puts Holly Tone on her shrubs when the ground is frozen.  Jane Wappler resets plants so they don’t heave.  She cuts her roses early.  Becky cuts down her hydrangeas.  Judy  does divisions in the fall. Ellen takes in her hoses at the end of the year.  Jane G. cuts down her iris.

Tricia pulls the leaves out of her boxwoods.  She shakes the snow off of them during the winter to prevent breakage.  She covers the ones by the road with burlap and wood forms.  She cuts her roses now.

Fran does not do much cutting back now but cuts back her roses in February to 12”.

Andrea, with the perfect garden, tried to get rid of an old New Dawn climber last August by hacking it to the ground.  It began to grow back in three weeks and looks to be making an amazing comeback.  Punishment sometimes brings out the best in things.

It became clear at this Hort Chat that we could all use a workshop on hydrangeas – which you cut back in which season, where flowers come from (new or old growth or both) and where they really like to flourish.  Let’s get on that one.

And just remember “The Best Things in Life are Often Not Things.”

Your scribe in residence at Hort Chats are Us,

Susan Rein