Thursday, July 8, 2010

Japanese Beetle Parasite

We really don't like Japanese beetles.
That is an understatement.
But there are a few that we should allow to live.
There is a fly called Tachinid fly. Each female fly can deposit up to 100 eggs over a fourteen day period. They deposit them on Japanese beetles. When the eggs hatch they cause the beetle to fall to the ground and borrow into it. The eggs eat the beetle and then the life cycle begins again as they hatch into flies and find new beetles.
Pesticide use stops this from happening. Killing ALL beetles stops this from happening. In Japan, where the beetle is from, they do not have the same problems as we do because they have a natural balance of the fly and the beetle.
And so my friends what to do?
Look carefully at your beetles and any that you see with white dots on them, ( usually on their backs) leave them alone. Let the flies do their thing and multiply.
Use nematodes on your lawn in the spring to help with grub control. Those grubs are baby beetles. The nematodes love to eat them.
Watch for those little white dots.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Planting time

I have been remiss.
Planting time here at the farm is a wild time. 7 days a week and no let up. Everybody here, almost anyway, is putting in extra hours and working really hard to get everything done.
We do plant a lot of boxes and pots and containers and we like them all done by the Forth of July. We are almost finished.
This year seems different.
We have no excuse about rain days and lost work days. Still, we are not caught up. Not because of tons of huge jobs but because I think the weather and early spring has made it July in June and June in May. The weeds are spectacular! The gardens are requiring more maintainence, the trees more pruning and the plants more watering. We go to a garden and within a few days it really needs us again.
Even here at the farm, lettuce is going by faster, the weeds are already up in the potted plants that we sell, the perennials and shrubs. We are watering every day even if it rains. The heat just makes it harder to manage.
My crew is awesome. We have some new people and they are doing such a good job of learning and asking all the RIGHT questions. They are careful and personable and things get done because of the team work that goes on at Blackrock.
People keep asking if there will be anything left in bloom in August and I keep telling them to cut back everything and we will probably have a wonderful August filled with second blooms on perennials. Keep dead heading the annuals. They will continue to bloom so long as they never get to go to seed.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Guest blogger....Penny Marshall

I asked Penny if she would write some things for the blog. Penny is a wonderful gardener, writer and friend.
She and I share many of the same interests. Add to my list an ever growing body of books on horses. There is never a need to 'find' something to do. We are busy.....busy. Even if we are sitting down our minds are sorting out garden matters or a host of other interests.
I loved reading her piece on Garden Passions and I think that you will too. Penny gardens in Biddeford Pool, Maine. She has a beautiful piece of property with views of a fresh water pond, loaded with waterlilies and then of the ocean beyond. Can you even imagine that? I will take some photos soon of her place to share with you.

Periods of Garden Passions by Penny Marshall

Picasso had a blue period but, not being too up on affaires d’art, I don’t know if he had other ones. As an extremely multifaceted and old individual (meaning lots of consuming interests but no single all-encompassing passion or talent over four score years) I have had many periods in many fields, often being deeply immersed in two at once, or, occasionally in productive, or just as likely, spread thin spells, in even three. With me, just because I’m not still deeply embedded in my “rhodie” period for instance, doesn’t mean I don’t have a good dirty-sneaker-clad foot in it, signifying ongoing curiosity and interest, and an ever-present book buying urge toward it. As someone said to me (somewhat scathingly I thought, c. thirty years ago) “My God, Penny, must you try to specialize in everything AT ONCE?” to which the answer appears to be, yes.

So at the moment I’m deep in an Amelia Peabody mystery period, a health conscious less-meat-is-more one, and I may be moving out of my big-time Trees period into a mixed Trees and stones-in-the-garden one. At the moment, my garden bears the traces of (I think) every one of my garden periods except the first - Sweet peas – one, and now that I think of it, that’s no good at all and must be remedied. Let’s hope Blackrock can help and if they can’t why, I ask you, NOT!/?

My sweet pea period began at c. age 5 when my mother, at my importunate, probably loud, begging, bought me a bunch of those intoxicatingly scented, deliciously colored glories at a Saturday morning Mennonite Farm Market in Hagerstown, MD, c. 1932. It wasn’t until 1937 when I was ten that I was able to plant my own bed of sweet peas, a thoroughly wasted endeavor as the garden plot assigned me by my hogging-the-best-places-for-gardens mother was in the very shady, three dog populated, fenced in dog yard in Fairmont, WV. Nothing even tried to grow or maybe the dogs “watered” them for me.

For my own and possibly Helene’s amusement (and maybe even yours) I’m going to list my garden periods in as close as I can come to the order in which they dawned. I enjoy looking back at my life almost as well as getting on with it, and garden periods (during a definable “period” the main garden budget, book buying/reading, curiosity, plant buying, seeking, learning and planting is focused on the named species) serve as handy pegs for happy memories as well as frustrating ones.

So, sweet peas. (Big skip while I grew up, passed through my sweetheart roses on the bosom and orchids on the wrist social life, and got a garden where I called the shots.) Then roses, peonies, iris, azaleas (hybrid and species), bulbs, woodland wildflowers, groundcovers, rhododendrons, ilex, magnolias, epimedium. Side skip to increasing emphasis on Maine garden as I moved from suburban NY. Then onward with rock gardening, hosta, old roses, coral bells, columbine and geranium (bundled together), lilacs, magnolias – again ( different garden), hydrangeas, variegated/colored foliage, alpines/troughs, shade plants, trees (especially Japanese maples), and (all blended in one and slowly coming up on the outside) stones, ferns, mosses.

Comment. Having a tree period after years of planting things and while enjoying soul satisfying ocean and (separate) pond views you wish to retain is Very Difficult. Think about it!

There is also a part of me that wonders if maturity, both of self and gardening talents, is necessary before moving “up” to trees or do some people come to trees earlier, possibly even start there? A suspicious but canny inner self wonders if it took a larger budget or more assurance that after all those years of growing smaller things I could succeed even with these important and expensive “biggies” that allowed me to move on to trees. Who knows? And, it turns out I don’t really care – I just enjoy speculating about things. Today’s biggest wonder - could I make a success of moss gardening? I’ve suddenly huge healthy patches all over the place, none planted, none planned, all unknown. But beautiful, velvety and (courtesy of changes in climate) thriving and, yes, even invading. Guess who needs a book on mosses to study!

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Saturday, May 22, 2010


Come and visit....looks like a nice day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stanley's Pond and Guss's Apple Tree

This old tree only blooms every other year. It is always a surprise when it does. Sometimes I think it even skips two years.
It's a special tree here at the farm and we love it with the new pond. Stanley would approve.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Don't Forget the Open House Next Weekend!!!!

Blackrock Farm
293 Goose Rocks Road
Kennebunkport, Maine 04046
207 967-5783
We are one mile inland from the Clock Farm and Route 9.

Spring Celebration Open House
Saturday, May 22, 2010

Offering classic and innovative landscape design, installation, and maintenance.
Specializing in select annuals and perennials, trees and shrubs, terra cotta pots and garden ornaments.
We invite you to visit our display gardens, stone walls and sculpture, organic vegetable garden and greenhouses.


Penny's True Garden Poem

My dear friend,Penny Marshall, has written this poem and I know this to be true. Especially at a nursery where tags are so important. My poodles take the tags as well. Gilly is a poodle too. I thought that I would share this with you. Thank you, Penny.

By the way, the picture is NOT of Penny's rather well groomed poodle, Gilly, but of my old Augustus who loved to steal the tags right out of the pots. I have many mystery hostas and daylilies and shrubs, thanks to Augustus.

Penny's Silly but True Poem

As a gardener I’m s’posed to know

The place and name of all I grow

But greed o’ertakes me when I shop

And planting tires me, so I drop

Onto the bed, my wine at hand

And fail to map out as I planned

The earthy home of each new treasure -

(Despite the pains I took to measure

How far they sat from last year’s wonder

Or how many inches of soil they’re under.)

But once they’re labeled I needn’t worry

Or, so I think, till I see Gilly scurry

Happily by me, bent metal in jaw –

Oh, drat that dog, she’s a garden outlaw

Removing my guideposts one by one

(Ears swinging, tail wagging, she’s having fun!)

But I’m left to wonder till end of the season

What I planted where and was there a reason?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Creature comfort

At least the rhubarb didn't get hurt.

Rabbit Hill Primitives sent me a comment about the frost and so of course I snooped about and found her web site and spent a lovely 5 minutes or so watching the utube Creature Comforts video on gardening that she has on her blog. She also makes really wonderful cloth primitive 'things'. I didn't know about the Creature comfort videos. You all might have seen them a hundred times.
It was fun.....check it out. And thank you, Jenn. I love hearing from other gardeners.

It made me laugh.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The late spring frost

Ain't fittin, ain't fittin, just ain't fittin!!!

I have been growing here at Blackrock for around thirty years. That's a pretty long time I think.
I have NEVER seen damage like the frost on Monday night did to our plants.
It did not just do damage to the things that we have gotten in at the farm to sell but to trees and perennials that are in the ground!
We knew enough to cover all the new stuff. Plants that might have come from a warmer climate, like our beautiful Japanese Maples, we covered with huge pieces of plastic. The few perennials that we got in that we weren't sure of, we covered. But the things that had been out all winter we did not. How could we? No way that we can cover the whole farm!
We covered all the topiary that was too big to carry back into the already stuffed greenhouses. But plants that had been outside all winter and things that were in the gardens we left alone.

And so....the two Cladestris (yellow wood) that I carefully planted to create shade where the old Elm that we had to take down because of Dutch Elm disease was, had just leafed out. Their leaves are totally shriveled and gone. All the Magnolias that had sent out there new leaves are a mess. The ferns and hostas that were coming up in the gardens are wilted and brown.
Ferns....dead? These are ferns that had been in the garden for years.
I really can't tell you if they will come back. I have never cut back a fern in spring.
The only thing that I can say if that we will learn from this. I think that it is just that the plants had not hardened off yet in a natural way. No frosts for over a month and they all just came out and never got strong. It will be interesting to see what flushes out again and what can't quite manage. We will feed gently with compost and prune and hope for the best.
I knew that I was nervous about this spring. Easter with it's hot weather and dry winds held a bit of fear for me. I like it when things are normal. I don't like an early spring, or a really open winter with no snow or a rainy, rainy, summer. I am more content when it is 5 degrees in February like it should be and April is rainy and cold and May has it's cold nights and warm days.
I don't like to be tricked.
Apparently, neither do the plants.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blackrock Farm Open House May 22, 2010

Every year on the weekend before Memorial Day, when the farm is as full of plants as it will ever be, we host an Open House. We send out announcements, work like mad people making the farm beautiful and make some yummy food. Gardeners from all over come and visit. It has become an event that many people come for every year and one that we truly enjoy here at the farm.

Please come and visit. It is a time when new gardeners can rub elbows with experienced ones and the choicest of our plant matter is all here.

We think that you will be surprised at our fabulous vegetable garden and new vegetable greenhouse. Our selection of organic vegetable seedlings are, I think, unsurpassed and all the other trees, shrubs, interesting annuals and perennials will be at their best.

If you have never received an invitation from us, go to the web site, , and add your name to our list. We have been sending out postcards for years and some people say that they frame them and some say that they still have the first on that we ever did on their refrigerator.

It is a fun day.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Snow in filly

My friend Jenny sent me this photo this morning....85 degrees one day and 20something the next....
Poor little mini filly, a few days old, was cold so Jenny had to get the scissors out and make a little blanket....

Friday, April 16, 2010

Stanley's Pond

It is time to talk about a birth. The announcement is a little late but I want to talk a little about it anyway.
Last year, with a little help from Maine's Department of Agriculture, we dug a beautiful pond here at the farm. The water from our well had a tendency to get 'salty' right around August when we really needed it the most. Our shrubs in pots, that looked so wonderful in July, would suddenly look like heck even though we knew that our water had tested fine in May. Finally, we smartened up and tested it in August. Sure enough, way too salty and we now know that it fluctuates from month to month.
And so....not this winter but the winter before, we began to dig an irrigation pond.
This was the most amazing landscape project that I have ever taken on. Never mind the imensity of the project but the placement and effect on the landscape did things that you could never possibly anticipate.

First of all, we asked Mark Welch to help us. We had cleared the brush and trees and knew pretty well what the shape would be but when you do a project this big you have to trust the people who know what they are doing. I can't say enough good things about Mark and his sons and crew. This was a wild project! They were patient and competant.
You would think that as a landscaper I would be more relaxed about this whole thing but the opposite was true. What if it looked like it didn't belong? What if the dam didn't work? What if I hated connecting the front fields with their greenhouses and cars to the back field which had always been a peaceful haven? What about the dogs and ice? What about snapping turtles? I think that is what I mean by a birth. All that work to make this pond, all the fears and trepidations, all the worry about the unknown and then......
I will let the pictures tell the story.

First, we had to construct a dam to hold the water and a pump to pump out the ever growing water that was seeping into the pond. This was pretty wild in itself. Rains melted all the snow and a couple of times we really worried about the pumps keeping up with the massive amounts of water. Still, it worked.

You can see that we had to dig down 10 feet to hit clay. The clay was beautiful marine clay that was necessary to hold water. Our sandy soil was excavated and brought to someplace in a near by town and the clay was dug into and spread on the sides of the pond like a huge bowl to hold the water.
It was amazing to watch this process. One huge machine would scoop up the clay and another would grab that and smear it on the side of the pond wall.

Having this pond is like having a living breathing thing. It is already attracting wildlife and new plants. It has affected the light on the farm and the way that the wind blows. It smells and sounds different here at the farm. The ocean noises are closer and the the diamonds that sparkle on it when the sun hits it just right are gifts for all to see.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

80 degrees here in Kennebunkport.....have a lovely day!

Things are starting to bloom at Blackrock

I promised that I wouldn't miss spring this year. I am trying to pay attention to every detail. Still, I am looking outside this morning and the grass has gotten green in 2 days. I mean that brilliant spring green that makes you think that it is warm out there even if that isn't quite true.
Although you can drive along at 40 mph and see spring happening; the green grass, the haze of buds on the trees, early spring is a time to concentrate on small things.

The earliest of plants are tiny. Snowdrops, (Galanthus) if you are lucky enough to have them, take a while to establish and the flowers that are so unique are tiny and to really see them you have to either pick them and bring them up to eye level or get down on your hands and knees and look closely at them. There are people out there, Galianthus nuts, who collect all the different little markings on them. They are unique and fleeting but there are hundreds of cultivars and each one is so welcome at this time of year.

Crocuses are still one of my favorites. I stopped planting the white ones in lawns because I think that they look like pieces of tissue on the lawn but the yellows and purples and blues can be all thrown together or grouped according to color. They are so brief and so wonderful to have that 'tasteful' groupings are to me not an issue. I plant the white ones up close to the house in little corners where they can be clearly seen for what they are, not pieces of paper on the not quite raked spring lawn but beautiful little flowers.

My Hamamalis has been in bloom now for almost a month. I have two that are blooming now, Arnold's Promise and Diane The flowers on this shrub are no where near as interesting from a far. But when you cut a branch for the house or get up close to it in the garden it is so fragrant and elegant. I think that it is underused in the garden and one of the honey bee's favorite early sources of food. When nothing else is in bloom it is a star and later on the horizontal shape of this shrub is pleasing in the understory, up against the woods or in those hard to plant places that you would like put some shrubs with flowers that fit in with a more formal planting.

I can't forget the Magnolia. My little Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) is getting ready to open. The buds are to me just as beautiful as the flowers. The other magnolias here at the farm are not as far along as the star. Late spring frosts can damage the flowers of these trees but that is no reason not to plant them. I also have heard of people who don't like them because if they are truly successful they make a huge mess when they drop their blossoms. What? A pile of pink or white or yellow on the green grass is ugly? It is a small price to rake a bit for that unbelievable display so early in the spring.

And of course Forsythia. This is a hard shrub to place in the landscape. The next time you drive by a MacDonalds or Walmart's you will undoubtedly see the wrong way to plant them. If you have the space and can let this shrub go and arch it's branches as they should be allowed to do and NOT place it next to a PJ purple Azalea, and if you realize that the bright yellow color is going to last a bit in the landscape, and realize too that your Forsythia is going to bloom right along with and complete aggressively with that wonderful Magnolia that you have been waiting for,then..... plant it please. It is the most wonderful spring color and you will have the added benefit of not having to stop on the highway or in other people's yards to steal branches to force in the wintertime.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Psychopsis ....The butterfly orchid

When I was doing wedding flowers, I would be at the Boston Flower Market and occasionally a man from New Hampshire would arrive with a box of orchids for sale. They were not the typical orchids that most florists used for corsages, but an assortment of flowers that looked just like bugs! I could not believe them!
They were amazing and still are one of my favorite ones to grow.
This orchid sends out a long stem, about 2 1/2 feet long, and on the end of that is this amazing butterfly.
I mean really, tell me that doesn't look just like a butterfly!
This one is called Psychopsis mendenhall'Hildos'

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Portland Flower Show

Just a reminder that Blackrock will be doing a lecture at the Portland Flower Show on Vegetables. It's at 4:30.
Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Red Winged Blackbirds

Sunday, March 7th, the red winged blackbirds returned.

This has significance.

There is a big tree that hangs over our stream and suddenly, as if they have never left, there they are. Usually around fifty of them, up there singing their little heads off. At first, I don't even notice and then all of a sudden it hits me. I look up, dazed, and a little disappointed. The slower pace of winter is over. I look down at my hands. Clean.

Not for long.

They're back! The red winged blackbirds.

It means..........IT'S STARTING!

Spring. The busiest time of the year on a farm. The craziness that I call my life is about to begin.

There are plenty of signs that it is about to happen.

The horses are shedding like mad, the eggs are rolling out the hen house, the days are long, the plants are really growing, and pretty soon we will be out straight.

But it's those darn Red Winged Blackbirds that give the wake up call........

We're off!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Portland Flower Show

This Thursday, March 11th, 4:30 to 5:30 I will be speaking at the Portland, Maine flower show.
The lecture will be on Vegetable Gardening and should be a lot of fun. I always like to do these talks and especially on vegetables.

It's a subject near and dear to me especially in these times when we are all trying to save a little money.
But not only that.
I am constantly amazed that people don't grow at least some lettuce and tomatoes and a few cucumbers! Not only for themselves but so that their kids can see how it is to grow things, and maybe have a little appreciation of what food should taste like. Can you imagine basing whether or not you like peas from frozen ones? There is nothing like a pea off the vine! And don't even start me on tomatoes.
So for those of you interested, we will be at the show on Thursday and probably have a few workshops here at the farm as well a little later in the spring. Come and join us.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ray Hunt Memorial in Fort Worth, Texas

This last week I went to Fort Worth, Texas to honor Ray Hunt at the Ray Hunt Memorial. Ray Hunt, for those of you who don't know a thing about horses, was the master of the type of horsemanship that they tried to depict in the movie, The Horse Whisperer, with Robert Redford. There isn't a single worth while 'natural horsemanship' clinician in the world who wouldn't give Ray Hunt and his mentors Tom and Bill Dorrance credit for their teachings about horses. Ray Hunt and Caroline Hunt, his wife, did what Tom and Bill Dorrance didn't feel comfortable doing.

They shook the world of horsemanship.

He died last year.

For those of you who know something about horses, you probably already know who Ray Hunt is. If you don't know who he is and you have horses, you have missed the best. Look him up on the Internet. I'm so sorry that you missed him. This link tells a little about what he did.

The first time that I ever saw Ray Hunt was in Pennsylvania years ago. He would sit on his horse and talk to us. The other horses that were loose in the arena would just want to be with him. It was like they needed to be touched by him. Sometimes he would wave them away but sometimes he would reach his hand out and just invite them to be scratched. There is not enough room on this blog to talk about him so that those of you who don't know about him would understand. He is very missed and the people who were at the memorial, from all over the world, both spectators and clinicians, are trying hard to follow what he made look so easy and what is so hard to master.

Twenty people drew twenty horses out of a hat and had 45 minutes on one day and 45 minutes on the next day to get their horses halter broken and saddled and ridden. These horses were 2 year olds who were brought right in from the range, hadn't been handled at all and were just as wild as an untouched horse can be.
This was not a competition. They were asked to think of Ray while they worked with their colts and have him sort of on their shoulder as they worked through the problems with each colt.
All these horsepeople tried to implement the teachings of Ray Hunt in their approaches. It was a wonderful thing to see.

By the end of the second day, all the horses were being ridden together. These cowboys had ropes flying around and people laughing and the colts looked for all the world like they were content with what was going on. It was a really nice thing to see.

I was lucky enough to travel with five women , including Terry McClare, who carries on Ray's practices here in Maine and has helped me out with my horse, Grace. She is a extraordinary horsewoman who helps people with their horses. She lives in Brownfield, Maine. All these women were so much fun to be with and so serious about their horses that it was a pleasure....and a blast!

To say that it was a wonderful and memorable weekend is an understatement. It was sad and hopeful and emotional. It was a once in a lifetime chance to see some of the best horsepeople in the world. Buck Brannaman and Buster McClaury and Martin Black to name just a few.

Although most of what you will find on this blog will be about plants and landscapes, I can't let you forget that the whole reason for me to be here in the first place has to do with the horse.
My heartfelt thanks to Ray and Caroline Hunt for making my horse's lives better.

Victoria Magazine

Well.....I have to tell you that I love the magazine article. We have had things done before about the farm but I really think that Victoria and Emelie Tolley did such a nice job.
Thank you to them both and go get the magazine. It's so much different than the web site. Really pretty.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Victoria Magazine

For those of you who still love to read magazines, we are in Victoria Magazine this month. ( )
Emilie Tolley, who wrote the beautiful book, Herbs by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead wrote a nice article for the magazine and the photographers came out here to the farm last summer to photograph.
Always fun to have that kind of notoriety.
Thank you so much Emelie and Victoria.
I must say though that we had hoped that our new website would be up and of course it is not yet....should be in a few weeks but I wish that it was ready now.
People are emailing me through the old web site and it would be nice if they could see the new one.
Just too many things to do here on the farm in the winter.
So many people ask us what we do all winter. We never stop. So much to take care of in the 'off' season.
Off season just means that we spend money and don't make any...that's all. We still work pretty much as hard as in the summer.
Anyway, please go buy a Victoria and look at the article.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hibiscus schizopetalus

This is a hibiscus. If you really look at it you can tell that it is but it's not like the common ones that we usually have. It is not a really prolific bloomer either but it's so beautiful that we wait for the blooms and spend a lot of time moving it around the greenhouse from place to place so that we can look at it. Pretty special I think.