The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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What’s Blooming: Rose Petals and Cotton Candy

Well, here we are at the height of Summer for those of us in the Northeastern United States … J-UUU-L-III! This is the month of big bangs of blooms. Picture picnics and sizzling grills (of veggies), beautiful bouquets, carnivals and cotton candy. Reality: I took photos this morning in the rain, in my squeaky, squishy flip flops. No sunny skies here today but that’s okay, I have blooms – lots of big bang blooms!

I am still far behind in my gardening chores – chores that I have listed in my head such as you really, really need to cut back the Black Lace out front. You really, really need to weed that new area by the rose trellis. You really, really need to tie up your cherry tomatoes … on and on. So, you may see a weed, or a dozen, but the blooms are what to focus upon, please.

The Potager is in the worst shape. It needs a cut back, tie up, pull up, fall plant, and a really good day – or two – of weeding. The paths are barely passable, but there are blooms (and buzzes) everywhere – Calendula, Morning Glory, Tomatillos, Purple Perilla and Cutleaf Coneflower have reseeded themselves silly. Trumpet flowers are just beginning to open. The dill and borage are growing tree size!

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Dill Tree

The Bird & Butterfly Garden is becoming choked by Joe and Susan’s love affair. There will be a messy divorce come Fall, I predict. Still, on and on there are blooms – currently, Daisies and Bee Balm – through a veil of Joe Pye just budding.

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Another large growing patch of Bee Balm in the Nice Driveway – safe from Susan. Summer Nights Heliopsis decided to move itself to the Nice Driveway, too. I have also been spreading my Cone Flowers around for fear they will be permanently choked out by Susan. I’ve replanted or deadheaded some in the Nice Driveway, some more out front by yet another patch of Bee Balm, only pink, mixed in with Verbascum which also easily reseeds.

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‘Summer Nights’

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Liatris is finally taking off in the Nice Driveway. Things either thrive or perish in the Nice Driveway. It is full sun and somewhat dry. The soil is not as rich as it is in the back gardens.

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Sea Holly has flared up out front and is normally glittering with pollinators but not today in the rain.

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I can never pick out Butterfly Weed until it’s in bloom, then bang, there it is!

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Good news! I thought my New Jersey Tea didn’t survive but then, bang, there are some small blooms!

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I had a large whiskey barrel container at the end of our driveway. I finally moved it up to the garage in the dead sea of paved driveway to break it up. It was really just a pee spot for all the passing dogs where it used to be, anyway. And when the crabapples were planted, it didn’t really fit out there anymore. It detracted from the trees. I devised a trellis with bamboo and grapevines to grow Cardinal Climber for the hummingbirds.

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I also planted Pineapple Sage and some of the seedlings I started this year into it: Castor Bean, Lime Zinnias, Lime Nicotiana, Love in a Mist, and Shrimp Plant. I love it in its new spot – birds even perch on the trellis – a Cedar Waxwing the other day! But sadly, it is full of black ants and they are eating the bases of the stems! You can see the Castor Bean is wilting. I tried chalk around the barrel, sprinkling cinnamon around the base of stems and transplanting some Calendula to deter them – they seem to be dwindling. All remedies I looked up online. (I also have an ant problem in one of my raised beds – where are the Flickers?) Next year I will be sure the ants are gone before I plant. There’s always next year says the gardener.

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Shrimp Plant blossoms

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Lime Zinnia bud

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Castor Bean flowers

I think the Woodland Edge is my favorite part of the garden. There is always something going on. It is also the most wild and difficult to maintain. My stone paths I attempted are almost completely grown over (another item to add to the list). Right now this border it is all frothy and pink.

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The beautiful cotton candy blooms of Queen of the Prairie are just beginning to froth.

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Queen of the Prairie (in pink) and Tall Meadow Rue

Persicaria Firetail just beginning to flare, will shoot off until frost.

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“The Rocket” lights up.

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The Hydrangea in the drive droops in the rain. This Hydrangea’s cuttings have taken root in new Hosta Row.

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Hydrangea from cuttings now growing in Hosta Row. Golden Shadows and Red Twig Dogwood in foreground.

A new Hydrangea ‘Quickfire’ (replaced Oakleaf which surely would not have survived last Winter here) just beginning to bubble behind Heucheras Pinot Blanco and Caramel. I love this combination.

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Well, if you’ve hung in here this long you deserve a grand finale! These photos were take a few days ago in the sun. The Prairie Rose, which unfortunately I cannot see, or smell, from our back porch as intended because we have yet to install our windows, has never been so big and full! I would say this rose definitely disguises that chainlink fence now. My neighbor can appreciate it anyway, and the bees – of whom I can hear their buzzing through the wall – and the syrphid flies and more. Rose petals flutter down from the sky throughout the garden.

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And so yet another Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens gives proof through the night that we can have flowers nearly every month of the year.


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Two In A Dozen For Diana

I am joining Diana of Elephant’s Eye in choosing twelve months of my favorite garden plants. In this month of February, I am feeling “pink love”, dark chocolate, and … Roses! Not a dozen dying red roses in a vase (my Valentine knows to give me live flowers), but roses in the garden. What could be more romantic? I always felt my garden would be incomplete without at least one rose, but ah hem haw, I had never grown roses. I don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides or sprays – roses require such things don’t they? No! So, there’s no excuse not to include a rose in this garden of my twelve favorites. I decided on two native, wild roses to add to my garden and I would recommend both to anyone who fears “high maintenance roses” and who likes to garden on the wild side.


I planted a Swamp Rose, Rosa Palustris, along the edge of my Potager where the soil tends to stay moist. This rose has grown substantially in just a few years from bare root. It has put forth suckers but they are easily dug up. Never one to pass up a new plant, I have begun a mini rose hedge/border.



Along my “classic” chain link fence garden feature, I planted a Climbing Prairie Rose, Rosa Setigera. This rose puts that fence to shame as it should be. It grows alongside our new covered back porch so I can really enjoy its fragrance and blooms. Every now and then I redirect the canes to follow the fence line.





Aside from romantic blooms and perfumed summer nights, roses also offer interest in Fall and Winter. Yellow-orange leaves in Fall stand out against darkening skies. In Winter, rosy red hips brighten snow and ice.



Roses are also pollinator friendly and fruit loving birds such as Robins will eat the hips. I know my Leafcutter Bees use the leaves for their nests as evidenced by their nearly perfect, circular cut outs. What’s not to love?

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Berry Berry Good!

This year I can finally boast a few berries! Berries attract birds and just last evening a male Cardinal stopped by – a rare, but very welcome, occurrence in my young garden – the cover is not yet thick enough for a Cardinal’s liking. Robins are still lingering. Robins actually spend the winters here where there are enough berries and fruit to sustain them. I see them regularly in a nearby state park through the entire winter where there are many dogwoods and chokeberries. (It is the Red-winged Blackbird that announces Spring for me.) The Catbird’s calls were closer than ever this year, and more frequent.

My plan is for my garden to eventually offer a natural Winter feast. See, I hope to be able to migrate along with our feathered friends in the upcoming years. The Winters, though beautiful, are just too long here. My backyard birds will be able to feast on berries and seeds still standing in the garden instead of my feeders while I follow the sun. The progress in the garden looks promising.

The wild grapes were very abundant this year. I have seen migrating flocks of Cedar Waxwings enjoying these in the past.

Wild Grapes

Rosa Palustris Hips
Rosa Setigera Hips
Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia Creeper will attract fruit eating birds such as Chickadees, Nuthatches, Mockingbirds, Catbirds, Finches, Flycatchers, Tanagers, Swallows, Vireos, Warblers, Woodpeckers, and Thrushes through the Winter.

Redosier Dogwood Berries
Cardinal Dogwood Berries
Cardinal Dogwood Berries
Elderberry Black Lace

Woodpeckers, Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, Orioles, and Grosbeaks are attracted to Elderberries.

Purple Prince Crabapple

Many birds enjoy Crabapple. So birds, enjoy the berry feast while I feast on, ah, hmm, er … a bird of a different feather.

I am always thankful for the joy, work, clarity, groundedness, peace, harmony, abundance and enlightenment of the garden and life. Happy Thanksgiving.