For the Birds

Cedar Waxwing enjoying winterberry and juniper berries in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Cedar Waxwing enjoying winterberry and juniper berries (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

No matter the animal, I love to feed them. Just look at my chubby horses, plump kitties and rubenesque dogs. And there’s no exception when it comes to my avian friends, either.  Although there are mixed messages about feeding during the summer months, I never miss a day year-round. But along with seeds, our native birds also need protein and fat to thrive. By planting berry producing trees and shrubs, we can provide additional sustenance for our feathered friends through the long winter months. I consulted the experts in my library, Stephen Kress (The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds) and Douglas Tallamy (Bringing Nature Home), to offer some of their recommended plantings as well as a few of my own favorites. [Read more…]

The Days of Wine & Roses

An heirloom shrub rose in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A fragrant heirloom shrub rose (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I don’t know when you were last surprised with a bouquet of roses and a bottle of wine, as it sure has been a while for me. But don’t blame my husband; I always request that he give me plants in lieu of cut flowers. Although I adore fresh blooms, I simply can’t justify spending a significant amount of cash on something that needs constant tending, only to shrivel up within days, versus spending the same amount of money (or even less!) on something that can be enjoyed for decades . . . without constantly trimming stems and changing water. Well, you do the math. [Read more…]

Thriller Fothergilla

Fothergilla gardenii's spring bouquet in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Fothergilla gardenii’s spring bouquet (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

One of my favorite shrubs for sounding the arrival of spring is fothergilla, a southeastern U.S. native that thrives in sunny, moist (but well drained) locations in zones 5-8.  Like a woman with a full head of rollers in preparation for her big date, fothergilla makes a stunning debut in your spring garden as it unfurls dozens of bright, cylindrical blossoms atop its crown.  These white, bottle brush shaped flowers are sparklers at the tips of fothergilla’s branches, and for our winter weary senses, they are a sight to behold.  Did I mention the blooms also possess a delicate fragrance? Ahhhh, how can you resist this cheerful shrub? But wait, there’s more! [Read more…]

Where There’s Smoke . . .

Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria) | A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer

Smoke Bush is rich in color (Photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

. . . there’s fire, and if you’re looking for a plant to ignite your garden setting this year, Cotinus coggygria may be just the plant you’ve been searching for.  Cultivated in Britain since 1656, and formerly known as Rhus cotinus, Cotinus coggygria is a blazing shrub that flaunts itself from early June to frost in my northern garden.  Also known as the smoke bush because of the frothy sprays of ashy grey flowers it bears each summer, I grow the showier Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’.  And, I don’t grow it for the flowers . . . I grow it for the outrageously showy, rich maroon-purple foliage that provides a dependably stunning display in my gardens every year. [Read more…]

Pussy Willows

Salix discolor in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Salix discolor (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

There’s one good thing about the month of March . . . well, actually two.  First, it’s only another four weeks (give or take, depending on Punxsutawney) before spring.  And second, irresistible pussy willows!  When Salix discolor‘s playful buds start emerging, it’s a sure sign spring isn’t too far away. [Read more…]

Rhody Rhapsody

A closer look at rhododendron flower in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A closer look at rhododendron flowers (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

When I first started selecting plants and shrubs for my gardens, rhododendrons were the furthest thing from my mind.  I thought of them as mundane, one hit wonders that flowered once in the spring and then quietly retired into the landscape.  And then a neighbor brought me a small shrub to welcome us to the neighborhood (he later admitted that his goats kept eating it, so it was more of a rescue gift).  I planted it rather unceremoniously, without pomp and circumstance, at the back corner of my house where it would be somewhat protected from the hot afternoon sun.  After all, shady locations are at a premium on my property, that is to say, I really don’t have any. [Read more…]

Pucker Up for Dogwoods

Cornus stolonifera Pucker Up in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Colorful Cornus stolonifera ‘Pucker Up’ (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I’ve been a fan of shrubs for decades, they add architecture and color to the year round garden while helping keep maintenance to a minimum. Many shrubs offer additional benefits of vibrant foliage, beautiful flowers and luscious fruit. And a few offer extraordinary attributes wrapped up in a petite package, minus the bow. One such shrub is the North American native, Cornus stolonifera ‘Neil Z,’ commonly known as the red-twig dogwood ‘Pucker Up.’     [Read more…]

Singlefile for Doublefile

Doublefile Viburnum Ignites the Landscape in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Doublefile Viburnum Ignites the Landscape (photo: Kathy Diemer)

We plant trees for a variety of reasons, one being to provide privacy or camouflage of an obstacle that might otherwise be quite unsightly.  The trick is finding a specimen that will thrive under the conditions of that spot as well as fitting the bill for coverage.  For a gorgeous shrub that will grow to 10′ tall by 15′ wide, in sun or part shade within zones 5-8, it’s ‘Mission accomplished’ with a doublefile viburnum. [Read more…]

Not Your Grandmother’s Forsythia

Variegated Forsythia & Friend in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Variegated Forsythia & Friend (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Buttery yellow blossoms of the popular harbinger of spring are brightening landscapes all over New England, but forgive me if I am not thrilled.  For as long as I can remember, I have had a strong aversion to the traditional forsythia that dominates the countryside.  Although some property owners keep it in check with diligent pruning, for others it has bulldozed over everything in its path, leaving a large mass of brown ugliness it its wake.  The brutish personality of forsythia is the stuff of nightmares.  I envision the Jumanji jungles, waking up with a machete in hand to hack my way out of the house . . .  [Read more…]

American Cranberry

American Cranberry brightens the spring landscape in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

American Cranberry brightens the spring landscape (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

If my back yard birds got to vote on which trees they favor most for habitat and berries, I know the American Cranberry, Viburnum trilobum, would be at the top of their list (it is certainly on the top of mine). American Cranberry is a large shrub capable of reaching over 15 feet tall-and it grows quickly-in my garden it grew over 10 feet within eight years. It has a rounded, dense form which is perfect for birds to nest, while providing a fabulous natural hedge. [Read more…]

A Garden for All