09/10/18 12:00pm
COURTESY PHOTO Ruth Stout planted her first garden in 1930.

COURTESY PHOTO
Ruth Stout planted her first garden in 1930.

The weather has been so abysmal that I’ve been driven indoors for most of the last few weeks, which is both a plus and a minus; the plus is that it gives one time both to review and reassess. (more…)

07/14/18 3:00pm
COURTESY PHOTO Elizabeth von Arnim, from the cover of ‘The Complete Works of Elizabeth von Arnim.’

COURTESY PHOTO
Elizabeth von Arnim, from the cover of ‘The Complete Works of Elizabeth von Arnim.’

Because women have been making news lately, and because there’s a terrific new book in the library called “The Illustrated Book of Women Gardeners,” I thought it might be fun to spend some time with it. And remind ourselves how much the lives of women have changed and how grateful we should be that they have.

(more…)

10/31/15 3:00pm
CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | This is my fall display, which I dearly love. The greens are my own, the gourds are from the IGA and the berries from my pyracantha, which did indeed recover. Isn’t fall glorious?

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | This is my fall display, which I dearly love. The greens are my own, the gourds are from the IGA and the berries from my pyracantha, which did indeed recover. Isn’t fall glorious?

This is my last my last garden column.

It’s been great fun being with you all these years. After all, even if I don’t write a garden column, I still shop in the IGA and go to the gym and that’s where many of you stop me to ask questions. I hope you’ll go right on doing that.

Now, to reminisce just a little … (more…)

09/22/13 8:00am

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | A very nice aster, Woods Light Blue, blooming in half shade.

Years ago, the genus Aster contained more than 600 species. In the 1990s, however, the North American species began to be treated separately. After this division, there remained roughly 180 species within the genus, most of which were confined to Eurasia. But those available in the United States are more than welcome this time of year when most of our perennials are either fading fast or have already gone to seed.

Asters are relatively easy to grow, prefer full sun but will manage with part sun, and are not fussy about soil or its pH. Some bloom in the summer, but most wait until fall. They come in a range of colors, although there is still not a yellow one. They are mostly shades of pink and purple, a light blue and white. They range in height from 8 inches to very tall and have many uses, both in borders as well as wildflower gardens.

Asters can be grown from seed, but germination is described in the literature as “uneven.” This suggests that buying plants is probably preferable. But if you do want to try germination, refrigerate your seed for at least six weeks before starting them in flats. A better alternative is to take shoots from already existing plants in spring, choosing those that look strong and vigorous to ensure your chances for success.

Because asters prefer climates with cool, moist summers and what we have here on Shelter Island is hot, moist summers, using a good thick mulch, at least 2 inches deep, is advisable. Depending on the type, they should be planted at least 1 foot apart and perhaps more.

You can encourage “bushiness” by pinching, which will also increase your bloom. Depending on the species, they will most likely need to be staked. Like other perennials, they probably should be divided every few years to keep the plant vigorous and the flower quality good.

Asters are not disease-free; they are susceptible to most of the fungi that occur in our humid summers, including powdery mildew, rusts, mites and aphids. If your asters acquire any of these, proceed in the usual fashion, spraying with an antifungal mixture.

Among the varieties available, my favorite is Purple Dome. If you come across it anywhere for sale, don’t hesitate; its flowers are a lovely shade of dark purple, and although I have it planted in a far from ideal position, it has never let me down.

Turning now to the Montauk daisies, we should begin by mentioning that they are not daisies, although they are probably called that because of their bright white petals and yellow centers. Actually, many plants are referred to as daisies, that are really something else, probably for the same reason.

Now that we have said what they aren’t, we can proceed to what they are. Formerly called chrysanthemum, they are now classified as nipponanthemums. (Isn’t that a great word?)

We’ll begin there next week, and perhaps by the time we finish, they will actually be in bloom. They are almost the last of the perennials to flower, followed only, as far as I know, by boltonia, which we will cover last.

Tip of the week: One of our garden sections in front our house, unprotected from the deer, was, unfortunately, discovered by them this week. They ravaged our brand new hydrangea paniculata and chomped all of the New Guinea impatiens. What was interesting was that in one small area where the impatiens were interplanted with begonias — not tuberous begonias but the regular kind — the begonias were left alone. Worth considering.

07/07/12 2:00pm

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | An almost full-sized hypericum, growing happily outside the rear entrance of the Reporter’s office.

There are hydrangeas in bloom all over the Island and yes, they’re a delight to see. And since I am always telling you that shrubs give you more bang for the buck, I’m certainly not putting them down.

But it’s always worthwhile, or so I think, to look a little further afield than what’s most prevalent at any given moment. If shrubs are part of your landscape theme, have as many hydrangeas as you like, but think about hypericum as well. At this time of year, it’s a welcome bright yellow, which is more than you can say about any other shrub that comes to mind.

Hypericum is a genus of about 400 species of flowering plants in the family Hypericaceae, otherwise known as St. John’s Wort, thought to have a number of medicinal values. Many plants and shrubs have medicinal histories — remember it’s only in recent times that plants are grown for their beauty alone.

In colonial days for example, there was not really any concept of gardens as attractive places. For something to be valued, it had to have a use beyond “sightliness.” If roses didn’t make hips, useful in both medicine and cooking, it’s not likely that they would have made the journey so successfully from the Old World to the new one.

Hypericum was an invariable ingredient of most theriacs, or poison antidotes, and was thought to be useful as an antidepressant as well. It’s quite an attractive shrub. It will manage with half sun and not much in the way of attention. Given its bright yellow flowers, it will certainly be a good partner for those blue to lavender hydrangeas.

Have you noticed what’s blooming outside the library? Those bright yellow, flat-topped flowers? They’re achillea, otherwise known as yarrow, and in recent years have been hybridized to the point that they come in myriad colors and shades. They’re perennial and sun-lovers, as you see from their very appropriate placement there. They’re a genus of about 85 flowering plants, in the family Asteraceae.

The blossoms come in those oddly-shaped, totally flat clusters at the top of tallish stems. The genus was named for the Greek hero of myth, Achilles, and in the Iliad, Greek soldiers use yarrow to treat their wounds. In the 17th century, it was popular as a vegetable. The younger leaves were cooked and used much as spinach is today and it was often used as a base for soup. The taste is said to be slightly bitter.

These flowers can be white, yellow, orange, pink or red. Some of the more popular cultivars include Paprika, Cerise Queen and Red Beauty. Presumably the names will be sufficient to give you the general idea. Apple blossom and Fanal are also popular. If you have enough sun, this is a perennial that it’s hard to find fault with. It’s drought tolerant and disease resistant. Achilleas don’t get black spot.

According to the literature, however, it should be noted that in rare cases yarrow can cause severe allergic skin rashes; prolonged exposure is thought to increase the skin’s photosensitivity, especially when wet skin comes into contact with cut grass and yarrow together. If that’s a downer, a pleasant aspect of the plant is that many species of butterflies use it as a major food source.

In Chinese tradition, proverbs claim that yarrow both brightens the eyes and promotes intelligence. Yarrow is also thought to be lucky, and mountain climbers were assured that where yarrow grew there were neither tigers, wolves or poisonous plants. It was also supposed to grow around the grave of Confucius. Unfortunately, I cannot verify any of these possibilities from first-hand intelligence.