In mid-summer, daffodils are rarely top-of-mind. But this is precisely the time when you need to be ordering them. And this is especially true for the more sought-after, unusual varieties. Why stick with yellow trumpets when daffodils come in so many colors, shapes and sizes? See below if one or more of these different types of daffodils wouldn’t be the perfect fit for your spring garden. Continue reading →
For those of you who think Mother’s Day was created by Hallmark, the real story is much more touching. It all sprang from a daughter’s love for her mother, the trials of war and a gift of 500 white carnations.
It Started in West Virginia
It all began in 1905 when Anna Jarvis lost her mother. She and her mother had been very close friends. Consumed by grief, Anna made a solemn vow. She pledged to establish a national day to honor her mother and all mothers for the positive contributions they made to society.
Anna’s mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had raised her family in the mid 1800’s and had suffered great hardship. Of the 12 children she gave birth to, only four survived. The others died from diseases common at the time, including measles, typhoid and diphtheria.
MOTHERS HELPING MOTHERS
Yet despite having endured so much loss, Anna’s mother remained stout-hearted. In the 1850s, she began organizing coalitions of mothers from across West Virginia to combat childhood illness. The women raised money for medicines, inspected food and milk and nursed those who were sick.
The coalitions became known as the Mothers Day Work Clubs.
Ann Reeves Jarvis
When in 1861 the Civil War broke out, the mothers also became volunteer nurses, caring for both Confederate and Union soldiers.
Mother’s Day Work Club members took care of all soldiers
Even after the war, the clubs continued to be a unifying force. In 1868, Jarvis organized a Mothers’ Friendship Day, which brought together mothers of former foes and encouraged reconciliation among area families.
ANN JARVIS LOVED CARNATIONS
Shortly after Ann’s death, her daughter Anna organized a memorial at her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia. During the service, she passed out 500 white carnations (her mother’s favorite flower) to all the mothers in attendance. With this unofficial inauguration, Anna began writing letters to national, state and local politicians to gain their support for a Mother’s Day movement.
And unbelievably, a decade later, 46 states and many foreign countries, including Canada and Mexico, were holding Mother’s Day celebrations!
Finally in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made things official. He signed Proclamation 1268, which created a national Mother’s Day as A public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.
Letter signed by President Woodrow Wilson establishing Mother’s Day
The second Sunday in May became the official day of celebration. And the wearing of a white carnation, Ann Jarvis’ favorite flower, became a tradition.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER MOTHER’S DAY CARDS
Anna Jarvis’ originally intended for Mother’s Day to be a personal celebration between mothers and their families (this is why Mother’s takes the singular possessive and not the plural). She imagined it as a time when millions would visit their mothers and write hand written notes expressing their love and affection.
Vintage Mother’s Day card
With the official recognition of the holiday, however, florists, card companies and other merchants began jumping on the bandwagon. Jarvis became more and more enraged as she watched Mother’s Day drift further and further away from her original idea. Nothing upset her more than the printed Mother’s Day card. She wrote,
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.
By 1920, Jarvis had become so angered over the commercialization of Mother’s Day that she launched a campaign to abolish the holiday. Declaring Mother’s Day a failure, she organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits to stop others from profiting off of the day.
In 1923, she even filed suit against the Governor of New York over a Mother’s Day celebration. When the court rejected her plea, she formed a protest and was arrested for disturbing the peace. She devoted the remainder of her life to fighting against the very day she had established.
Jarvis died, childless, in 1948 at the age of 84. She is buried next to her mother in Philadelphia.
THE ROLE OF CARNATIONS
Yet a century later, Jarvis’ legacy lives on in our annual Mother’s Day celebration. And there’s no doubt that carnations have become the official Mother’s Day flower. In her day the carnations were white, but since then pink and red colors have also become popular.
In fact, today it is generally believed that pink carnations represent gratitude while red ones signify admiration. And white carnations are now reserved for honoring a mother who is no longer living.
Red carnations signify admiration
Despite Jarvis’ later efforts, every U.S. president since 1914 has issued an official Presidential Mother’s Day Proclamation recognizing and honoring America’s mothers. And today, the custom is celebrated all over the world (albeit on different days.)
On a personal note, I like receiving printed cards and flowers on Mother’s Day, but have to agree with Jarvis that nothing beats a hand-written note from your child. I’m lucky enough to receive such letters each and every year.
Years ago, I was living in Paris when there was a knock on the door followed by the sound of running footsteps. Opening the door, I discovered a basket of tiny white flowers on my doorstep. Little did I know, I had just received a gift of lilies of the valley, a flower exchanged each year in France on the first of May.
In France, lily of the valley (or muguet in French) has been given as a gift for centuries. Legend has it that the custom began on May 1, 1561 when King Charles IX received a sprig of the tiny flower as a token of good luck.
The King liked the idea so much that he decided to start a tradition. From that day forward on the first of May, he presented a bouquet of lilies of the valley to each of the ladies of his court. And thus began the Fête du Muguet, otherwise known as May Day in France.
Portrait of King Charles IX
MAY’S MOST CELEBRATED FLOWER
Over the centuries, lily of the valley has since become one of May’s most celebrated flowers. And for good reason – it typically blossoms in April and stays in bloom for most of May. Averaging just around six inches, each plant is composed of a pair of leaves and a single stalk of bell-shaped flowers with a sweet, jasmine-like scent.
Still, for what it lacks in size, lily of the valley rapidly makes up for in numbers. When given ample shade, plants will form low, thick masses of bright green color, making them the perfect complement to other shade-loving perennials.
THE STORY OF LILY OF THE VALLEY AND THE NIGHTINGALE
Legend tells that the very first lily of the valley was in love with a nightingale. Every night, the nightingale would come to her garden to sing. However, the lily of the valley was shy and hid herself from the bird. So eventually he grew lonely and flew away.
Alone in the garden, the lily of the valley waited in vain for the nightingale to return. Eventually, she grew so sad that she stopped blooming. She started flowering again only after the nightingale reappeared (in May) and her happiness was restored.
SYMBOL OF LOVE
In early 20th century France, men often gave bouquets of lilies of the valley as tokens of affection. They presented their gifts, in accordance with tradition, on the first of May. In their absence, they sent romantic postcards featuring pictures of the flower accompanied by wishes of good luck. French people still practice the card-sending ritual today.
A vintage Fête du Muguet card
A NATIONAL HOLIDAY IN FRANCE
In modern-day France, the first of May coincides with National Labor Day. As a result, the Fête du Muguet is a public holiday. In the days leading up to the event, lilies of the valley are sold from roadside stands that pop up all over the country. And while it’s normally forbidden to sell flowers on public streets, the ban is lifted on May 1 in honor of this long-standing tradition.
HOW TO GROW LILY OF THE VALLEY
Easy-to-grow lilies of the valley are indigenous to temperate climates. Spreading by tiny rhizomes underground, they naturalize easily and can quickly become invasive. Unless you’re up for continually digging them out to control them, it’s best to plant the flowers in their native woodland or in a contained area in the yard.
And like most shade-loving plants, lilies of the valley prefer moist, well-drained loamy soil. Never plant them in full sun. If you do, their bright green leaves will lose their color and turn ugly shades of brown.
DON’T EAT THEM
Finally, you may be surprised to learn that all parts of the lily of the valley are toxic if eaten. So when handling the flowers, it’s best to wear gloves to prevent any residue from being transmitted to food. Symptoms of lily of the valley poisoning include stomachache and blurred vision.
Once daffodils quit blooming, things can get ugly. Even so, it’s vital to the health of the plant to let the leaves yellow. Removing foliage prematurely may neaten things up, but come spring you’ll have far fewer flowers. And everyone knows that daffodils look best in large numbers. Continue reading →
When it comes to stunning, early-flowering trees, it’s hard to beat the star magnolia. Every spring, it bursts onto the landscape in a flash of bright white. For what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in stature. I love how the blossoms hang like fallen stars from the tree’s smooth, bare branches.
THE SMALL GARDEN’S MAGNOLIA
Now, even small gardens can have a magnolia! What’s more, a star magnolia is slow-growing, so it won’t overwhelm your landscape. Topping out at a manageable 10 to 15 feet, it makes an excellent specimen tree while also providing a great backdrop to any mixed shrub border.
And who can resist those early-spring blossoms? Typically flowering in early March, star magnolia is heavy with blooms when most other trees are scarcely beginning to bud. Moreover, the flowers are long-lasting and fragrant; each composed of more than a dozen ribbon-like petals, with some varieties boasting as many as 30.
White flowers not your thing? There are also a number of pink varieties. All are magnets for pollinators, which gives your other plants an early start on the season.
FOR STAR MAGNOLIAS, THE SHOW NEVER STOPS
But, for those who think star magnolias are all about spring, think again. The little trees offer fall and winter interest as well. In autumn, the foliage turns yellow and then bronze, beautifully complementing other fall colors.
And in winter, the tree’s shiny brown branches contrast beautifully with a gray trunk that turns silver with age. By late winter, masses of fat, fuzzy buds appear.
TOP STAR MAGNOLIA VARIETIES TO TRY
Ready to give star magnolia a try? Below are some the most popular varieties that offer reliable, low-maintenance early-spring color. Deciduous magnolias are best planted when dormant, typically in late fall.
‘Centennial’produces fragrant, waterlily-shaped blossoms in early to mid spring. The large white flowers often have a pink tinge at the base of the petals.
Magnolia stellata ‘Centennial’
‘Jane Platt’ produces double, scented, pale pink flowers with long, narrow petals in early to mid spring.
Magnolia stellata ‘Jane Platt’
‘Royal Star’ has pale pink buds that open in early spring to pure white flowers. In particular, this cultivar is known for its almost 5-inch (12 cm) wide flowers with up to 30 petals. ‘Royal Star’ blooms later than the species.
Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’
‘Rosea’ is a pink-flowered variety. It has a rounded shape and dense bushy habit. This cultivar flowers a month later than the species, or in late April.
Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’
HOW AND WHERE TO PLANT
Star magnolia flowers are vulnerable to damage by late spring frosts, so it’s best to plant the trees in a sheltered spot. While they’ll do fine in full sun, they’ll perform best in morning sun with filtered shade in the afternoon. Generally, the more exposed the location, the earlier the flowers open. Like most plants, star magnolias prefer moist, well-drained soil.
Magnolia stellata really shines when viewed against a dark background. Site it in front of a stand of deep green arborvitae, a yew hedge or even a dark brick house and watch its flowers ‘pop.’ Daffodils with cream or white petals and yellow cups make excellent early-spring companions. Check out Narcissus ‘Sovereign’, ‘Golden Echo’ or the orange-cupped ‘Barrett Browning’ for a dramatic effect.
Annuals for the cutting garden/Photo: Julie Hove Anderson Photography
As a landscape designer, I’m well versed in perennials and the kind of annuals you buy from a nursery. But when it comes to growing annuals from seeds, my experience lies mainly with zinnias. So recently, I was delighted to attend a webinar hosted by ButterBee Farm owner Laura Beth Resnick on the top annuals she grows for her cutting gardens. Continue reading →
Now that we’re all spending more time at home, it can’t hurt to know what’s blooming. And finding the answer is easier than ever with one the many plant identification apps available. But which ones work best and provide the fastest, most reliable data? To find out, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison. Continue reading →
I always smile when the redbuds start blooming in my area. Flowering with reckless abandon, the magenta-colored trees instantly invigorate the landscape. One of my friends shouts out REDBUD! when her own dazzling specimen bursts into bloom. That seems to me the perfect way to describe the electric flowering of this upbeat, ornamental tree.
Indeed, redbud’s blossoms are hard to ignore. Oversized and fluffy, they envelop the tree’s branches, even covering the trunk. Their effect is fresh, bold and a little bit jaunty.
Recently my inbox has been overflowing with questions from readers worried about the abnormally warm winter we’ve been experiencing. Many of the questions center on daffodils; in particular, what to do about unruly bulbs. Before replying, I first spoke with a few local nursery experts to gain their advice. Here are five of my readers’ top concerns about daffodil bulbs and what to do about them. Continue reading →
Just the other day, I was working with a bunch of Master Gardeners preparing a garden for the county fair when one of them noticed a bare space. Sure enough, in one of the central beds, a group of plants had recently given up the ghost on a prominent corner. In no time, we all agreed that a lacy evergreen would be the perfect replacement. And that’s when I suggested chamaecyparis. Continue reading →