Old-Fashioned Favorites that just won’t Die

peonies dames rocket

When I sit down with residential clients and begin to make wish lists I find that the old fashioned favorites still top the list, despite my lectures on the benefits of densely layered native plants.  Hydrangea, roses, daylilies, peonies, iris, and lavender will never die in the eye of the garden romantic.  I believe that our collective design aesthetic is gradually changing thanks to our modern naturalistic landscape heroes (Oudolf, OvS, Dan Pearson, Ken Druse, Sarah Price, Adam Woodruff, Nigel Dunnett, Ken Druse and Reed Hilderbrand), but until that paradigm shift happens I continue to share my list of the best classic performers.  Here they are:

hydrangea fence Limelight

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ in one of our designs

1) Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ – while there is a hydrangea for every day of the week, this one is tough to beat if you have the space for it.  Limelight is a vigorous variety that fills in a hedge, doesn’t flop over and once dried the flower heads have that lovely dusty pink and green color – your arrangements will make Martha proud.


Lavender at Linden Farm

Lavender at Linden Farm

2) Lavender ‘Hidcote’ – In Vermont we have had good luck with growing both ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ but the color on ‘Hidcote’ is the most vibrant and lasts better when dried.  I used to be industrious and make things with it, but now I just enjoy it while it lasts, which is only a week or two around the 4th of July.  Care must be taken to ensure good drainage and use either no mulch or a pebble mulch.

'Honorine de Brabant', a tough bourbon rose that smells divine

‘Honorine de Brabant’, a tough bourbon rose that smells divine

Roses – oh man, I have an instant headache.  No really, I love roses, and when we bought the farm I had oodles of hardy shrub roses from the Rosarie at Bayfields in Maine.  Of those oodles only a few remain 15 years later.  The ones that can handle our tough winters, wet clay soils that dry to brick, and survive pure neglect are the pink Rugosa hybrids – “Jens Munk’, ‘Therese Bugnet’, and ‘Hansa’, as well as a few Bourbon roses protected on the south side of the studio.

yellow daylilies near patio fireplace

Hemerocallis ‘Big Time Happy’ with Phlox ‘Laura’

Dayliles – Hemerocalis, or as the locals call it “Ditch Lily”.  Way too many rugged colorful varieties to list but if I could only pick five: ‘Baja’ (red), ‘Big Time Happy’ (yellow), ‘Ice Carnival’ (white), and ‘Pretty in Pink’ and ‘Strawberry Candy’ (pink).

dayliliy Strawberry Candy

Hemerocallis ‘Strawberry Candy’

Iris – generally we plant three types – Iris cristata (Crested Iris, a miniature woodland groundcover); Iris ensata (Japanese Iris, very dramatic around water features and in big swaths), and Iris siberica (Siberian Iris) tough as nails, graceful upright form).

Iris ensata at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Iris ensata at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Brother' in one of our designs

Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’ in one of our designs



Peonies – There are also a million of these to choose from and can understand the overwhelmed glaze I see in the eyes of garden center shoppers.  Luckily, it’s hard to go wrong – they are tough plants, often outliving their gardeners and found around old cellar holes here in New England.  The traditional double flowering peonies (‘Sarah Bernhardt’, ‘Felix Crousse’) are inexpensive and reliable.  The Japanese and single flowered peonies are lighter and more graceful.  The new ITOH or intersectional crosses of Tree and Herbaceous peonies are fragrant, sturdy and exotic, but very expensive (about $60 ea).  Someday I would like to add ‘Border Charm’ to my garden in Shelburne.

bright reddish pink peony

Paeonia ‘Charm’ is a Japanese type that can handle the heat

ITOH Peony 'Border Charm'

ITOH Peony ‘Border Charm’

Intimacy of an Old House


Tonight is one of those rare spring evenings where the sun shimmers off the lake and sitting on the west facing porch is like being wrapped in a blanket until the sun sinks below the mountains.  The birds are sounding out their evening mating rituals and neighbors drive by slowly, engrossed in a twilight trance.

I get to thinking about the house under my feet – we are under contract after just three days on the market, and our heads are still spinning trying to catch up.  The building inspector is coming next week and despite 15 years of major remodeling, in my panic all I can see are the imperfections, the odd jobs we never quite finished.  The front porch deck needs a coat of paint, as does the chicken coop, the master bath needs regrouting, the fence posts straightening, and on and on and on.

Tim reminds me of the truth – that living with an old house requires a certain acceptance that the work is never done.  The farm is a living breathing entity, with a lifespan far beyond our own, and we are simply stewards in this symbiotic relationship.   We provide the care, like clown fish to the sea anemone, and the house continues to shine and wave it’s protective arms.  I hope the new owners will come to realize this, as we did, in their own time.

I will forever be grateful for this haven, and the opportunity to have known it in its  intimate moments – to have been a part of the rebuilding of something abandoned and reborn.

Dreaming of a VT Gentleman’s Farm? Now’s your Chance

two girls on a porch swing with lilacsIt still seems surreal to me, the fact that we are leaving the place we’ve called home for the last 15 years, the place we’ve toiled over, the place we’ve raised our babies, the place we’ve loved.  But the new house in Shelburne is almost done so we are putting our farm in Addison on the market today.  Yes, the new house is an exciting adventure, where we will be closer to 90% of our clients, have access to fabulous schools and lots of other enriching experiences, but I’m still sad about leaving the farm.  When we settled here, and during the years of renovations and improvements, we said we would never leave.   I’m telling myself the move is a lesson in flexibility, fluidity, adaptability, and resilience – and that the new owners of the farm will love the place we’ve created, make it their own, and its deep history will continue to evolve.

outside - southWe have built a website www.EverestFarmVT that describes the farm and has a ton of photos.  The property sleeps 20 with all the outbuildings (5-bdrm farmhouse, summer cottage, studio and guesthouse) and would be perfect as a farmstay B&B, or as an elegant summer home with a year-round farmer/caretaker living in the guesthouse.  We renamed it Everest Farm since it was the Everest family who built it in the late 1700s and occupied it for four generations.  A new Linden Farm will be built on our 15 acres in Shelburne.   So if you’re in the market to buy a lovely property on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont, or know somebody who is looking, let us know.   Everybody is welcome to enjoy a taste of the Good Life in the gallery below.

Great Shade Plants for that Boggy Backyard

wild orange lilies in the woods

Lilium superbum (turkscap lily, native to New Hampshire to Georgia

In the spring I meet with dozens of new clients and many of them have a similar problem, a seasonally wet area that’s too shady to grow decent lawn, sometimes it’s right against the house, and other times it’s on the perimeter of the backyard.  Either way my answer is to promote drainage away from the house and then plant it!  The old standbys of Astilbe and Hosta are reliable and beautiful and I list a few of my favorite varieties below shown in combination with other worthy plants.  Whenever I can however I encourage people to venture beyond the familiar shade plants and try a few unusual ones, preferably native to the U.S. and even better their region.

white veined leaf of Jack in the Pulpit

Arisaema t. ‘Starburst’ from Plant Delights Nursery

Here are my Top 10 (mostly) natives that can tolerate wet feet and some shade:

  1. Actaea racemosa (also love Actaea ‘Chocoholic’ for its fragrance and butterfly charm)
  2. Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the Pulpit – check out Plant Delights Nursery introduction ‘Starburst’ which has white veined leaves)
  3. Aruncus dioicus (Goat’s Beard, gets Huge!)
  4. Catha palustris (Marsh Marigold)
  5. Carex – (a very diverse grass, some of the best ones for wet areas are not native – my favorite is Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’
  6. Chelone glabra (also love Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’, pink and showy non-native)
  7. Ferns – Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern), Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern), and Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern)
  8. Iris versicolor (Blue Flag iris)
  9. Lobelia cardinalis (also check out the nativars ‘Black Truffle and ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ which boast darker colored foliage)
  10. Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon’
shade garden combination with japanese forest grass

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, and Viola



marsh marigold

Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold) – a cheerful early spring ephemeral

Lobelia cardinalis around pond edge

Lobelia cardinalis around pond edge

Lobelia cardinalis

Lobelia cardinalis



There are also some great astilbes out there – my four faves are ‘Vision in Red’ (bold color), ‘Colorflash’ (awesome leaves that look great all season), ‘Deutschland’ (classic white) and ‘Purple Candles’ (can tolerate more sun and gets huge).

Astilbe Visions in Red and Dogwood Ivory Halo

Astilbe ‘Visions in Red’ at CMBG with Cornus ‘Ivory Halo’ in the back


Astilbe Deutschland white

Astilbe Deutschland at CMBG


Linden L.A.N.D. Group wins the 2014 Environmental Awareness Award

Green Works award

Green Works, established in 1964, is a non-pro?t professional organization for the Horticultural Industry in Vermont.  The Environmental Awareness award is given in recognition of an individual that has implemented an environmentally sound practice that contributes to the protection of the environment.  Winners received their awards at the recent 2015 Green Works Winter Meeting & Trade Show held on 1/27/15 at the UVM Davis Center.  This is the second award given to Rebecca by Green Works – she also received the NENA Young Nursery Professional of the Year Award in 2009, given by the New England Nursery Association to an individual under 40 who has contributed to the growth and success of the industry in the eye of the public.

Raising “Mongrel” Bees without Chemo

bees on front of hive with snow

The bees first flight of the year

Hooray, they made it, they made it!  We can’t help but do a little dance at the end of winter when the bees emerge.  The hive on the right is the stronger of the two it seems, but I won’t know until it warms up a bit more and we can open them up.  The left hive has a bit of brown goo from their cleansing flights, which makes me worry a bit about Nosema, a microscopic organism that destroys the lining of the bee’s gut.  It’s mainly a concern during the winter months when the bees have been confined for long periods of time and can’t get rid of the indigestible matter that builds up in their digestive systems.  The conventional treatment is to use the chemotherapy antibiotic treatment fumagillin.  Wait, what ?!?  No thanks.  Luckily, in Vermont it hasn’t been too much of a problem and we keep following the advice of our local Organic beekeeping guru, Ross Conrad, who believes that if we continue to raise the overall immunity of the hive by ensuring proper nutrition, ventilation, and avoiding heavy fall feeding of syrup we will raise strong healthy bees that can avoid most diseases like Nosema.  Ross says:


“The more genetic diversity that exisits in your hives, the better… Raising “mongrels” rather than “thoroughbreds” gives a greater depth of genetic diversity that will give the bees an edge when dealing with unexpected challenges”.


raising queen bees man in bee suit

Picking up a new Queen from Lemon Fair Honeyworks

We also increase the vitality of the hive by re-queening package bees with local mite-resistant, super hygienic queens, that we buy from Andrew Munkres, Lemonfair Honeyworks in Cornwall, VT.

We are very lucky to have a world class queen breeder here in the Champlain Valley – Kirk Webster of Champlain Valley Bees and Queens, as well as his long-term apprentices (including Andrew Munkres).  Kirk holds two open house field days: April 25, and July 25, 2015; rain or shine–9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at his apiary located at 1437 South Street, New Haven, VT.

queen bee cell in box

Queen cell ready to be inserted into one of our hives

I’m very encouraged by the enthusiasm of so many people that want to keep bees and the patience of our mentors.  I was just talking with a friend who is a teacher and her class is taking on beekeeping under the mentorship of Ross Conrad.  Go bees (and students), go!


Color on the edge – Gardening on Rocky Outcrops


Celandine Poppy

Who could believe we’d get so excited about gardening on the rocks!  At the new property in Shelburne we have some rocky ledges and I can’t wait to plant them with color.  After living in the heart of the Champlain Valley for 15 years (90% fine glacial clay, 90′ down) this type of geologic formation is a rare treat for us, but very similar to the terrain I grew up with in Maine.

In addition to the plants in the photos below here are My Top 10 Plants I plan to include in the dry shade of our zone 4 wooded slope: 1) Asarum canadense, 2) Dicentra eximia, 3) Carex pensylvanica, 4) Heuchera villosa, 5) Lathyrus, 6) Phlox stolonifera, 7) Polygonatum, 8) Tiarella, 9) Violas, and 10) Waldsteinia.

We put in a few thousand bulbs into our outcrop this fall and I will post photos when they bloom, but until then here are a few slopes I’ve photographed over the years to serve as inspiration.

Pasque Flower Pulsatilla

Pulsatilla (Pasque Flower) is a fleeting fancy in early May but works in well drained gravel soils

wild columbine rock ledge creeping phlox

Aquilegia canadensis and Phlox subulata are two of our early bloomers that are happiest in nooks and crannies.



Callirhoe Poppy Mallow stone wall

Callirhoe (Poppy Mallow) begins to flower in June after the spring rush, needs good drainage and full sun.

hillside ferns wooded slope

by July we all need some soothing relief from the heat – a mix of ferns in dappled shade does the trick – Dryopteris filix-mas (Male Fern), Dryopteris marginalis (Eastern Leather Wood Fern) and Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern) will all creep slowly to form a colony on slopes.




Embracing The Simple Plan

groundcover combination Geranium Rozanne Carex Metasequoia

Keep it simple and solve a problem – Great plant combination with three elements – Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Carex siderosticha ‘Variegata’, and Dawn Redwood ‘Ogon’

Linden L.A.N.D. Group has grown and evolved much over the last 10 years, and has developed into a company that last year serviced 70 Garden Care clients and designed/built 35 new Landscape Projects.  Looking forward we already have nine projects lined up for 2015 and several more in the design phase.

After a year of huge transition (moving the business to Shelburne, then designing and building a new net-zero house on the same property; and finally finishing our 15-year labor of love historical farm renovation in Addison which will go on the market in April) we have decided to simplify.  Moving is an intense experience for most and for us the process stimulated an evaluation of what was important for our family, and the realization that we need to make more time to enjoy our lives together (and our own gardens). To this end we have decided to focus the business primarily on new design/build projects (plantings and stonework), and to stop providing maintenance services.  We are calling it the Simple Plan – for each choice we are faced with we ask “does it keep it simple and solve a problem?”  everything runs through its gauntlet from our business structure and our marketing efforts to how we spend our non-working hours.

As a result you will see some changes on our blog this year.  I will still write the occasional thesis on ecological landscape design requiring extra joe, but the rest of the time I will keep it brief – photos of favorite plant combinations, quick garden tips, what’s happening in the barnyard, backyard and fields, as well as projects in progress.   So, here’s to the simple plan.  It goes against my nature but will preserve my sanity, and possibly yours too.

Waiting for Spring

I’ve been out for my regular tromp through our Vermont Clayplain fields and forest, enjoying fresh snow and the animal tracks that cross my path. Yet, as far as I’m concerned Spring couldn’t come soon enough – I miss the colors, fragrance and humm of my garden. So I’ve been surfing the blogs of other garden writers that appreciate Native plants, pollinators, and the joy that comes from incorporating them into gardens.

Marsh Marigold in Monkton, VT

Marsh Marigold in Monkton, VT

Today I was pleased to see that Houzz included a post by Heather Holm (on my list of authors I would love to have a cup of coffee with) about Caltha palustris, a fabulous plant that’s important for native bees, and one of our first signs of spring.  I think it’s encouraging that Houzz is picking up progressive content like this – 3 cheers.  Enjoy and may we feel some sunshine soon.


Cool Plants for Hot Spaces, Patios and Parking Lots

Our Champlain Valley clay soil can swing from wet as a swamp to dry as a brick, so we’ve become well versed in plants that can handle both extremes, as well as the occasional black thumb.  Many of the species adapted to these conditions have the ability to close off their pores – very helpful when spring floods cause temporary inundation.  In addition to being both wet and dry in a single season our clay soils are also alkaline (up to 8.0 pH) due to the limestone that lies beneath.  Here are some plants I use in difficult spots, such as parking lots and hot dry courtyards, that also tolerate alkaline clay in our typical Champlain Valley gardens.  Many of them come from North Creek Nurseries and American Beauties Native Plants:

Trees –

  • Cotinus ‘Grace’ (Cotinus obovatus x C. coggygria)
  • Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar),
  • Ostrya virginiana (Ironwood),
  • Quercus macrocarpa (Bur Oak),
  • Thuja occidentalis (Northern white cedar)


Shrubs –
  • Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’ (Red Chokeberry)
  • Diervilla lonicera ‘Copper’ (low-bush honeysuckle),
  • Hypericum kalmianum (St. Johnswort)
  • Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ (Sweetspire)
  • Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac),
  • Juniperus communis ‘Blueberry Delight’,
  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Center Glow’ (eastern ninebark)

Grasses –

  • Sporobolis heterolepsis (Prairie Dropseed),
  • Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Switch Grass),
  • Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ (little bluestem)

Perennials/Groundcovers  –

  • Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’,
  • Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed),
  • Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’,
  • Baptisia australis (blue false indigo),
  • Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’ (false sunflower),
  • Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae (New England Blazing Star),
  • Rudbeckia triloba (Three-lobed coneflower)