Saturday, June 27, 2009

Miller’s House Garden Celebrates 20 Years

I’ve talked about Miller’s House garden before here. Started in 1983, the garden was dedicated in 1989. It has been a labor of love for Bethlehem Garden Club members for 20 years.

Wednesday evening Bethlehem Garden Club members, friends and families came together to celebrate those 20 years.
Located in the Historic Bethlehem Industrial Quarter, the garden was created on an empty, sloping hillside.

Pictures of the early years were on display throughout the garden. The pictures illustrate the evolution from hillside, to walled flat surface, to building raised garden beds, to adding a rose arbor, to planting. An abundance of well-marked plants fill the gardens.

Amid the blooming lavender, larkspur, statice and salvia members of the original committee were honored for their foresight and dedication.

As the evening came to a close, the garden shone in the setting sun as a peaceful and educational oasis of late Victorian cottage garden history.

(Miller’s House Garden, 459 Old York Road, Bethlehem, PA 18018)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Powdery Mildew

According to our local paper, we have had “roughly 40 days” of rain since the beginning of April or about 12 inches. The gardens are green and lush.

Penn State Extension’s “Plant Disease Facts”, lists conditions that favor powdery mildew:

- High relative humidity at night
- Low relative humidity during the day
- 70-80 F temperatures

That sounds like our weather forecast.

Aptly named, powdery mildew looks like someone with a diaper emergency tripped and dumped baby powder all over the leaves. I usually don’t see much of it in this area until the steamy nights of August.

The phlox in the pictures is a prime example. Mildew also infects the leaves of cone flowers and zinnias. It usually doesn’t kill the plant but it makes the leaves unattractive. The lower leaves will will eventually curl up and turn brown.

The best control is to buy disease resistant plants. Being disease resistant doesn’t mean the plant will never get mildew but that plants are less susceptible to the fungus. Spacing and pruning plants for maximum air flow can help. Cleanup and discard plant debris in the fall.

A little gardening trick is to plant a shorter plant that doesn’t get mildewed in front of the mildew-prone plant to hide the unsightly leaves.

(More information on powdery mildew and mildew resistant plants from Clemson University Extension.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’ (Spiraea japonica)

While we’re talking about reliable plants, Spirea shrubs are a candidate for this class.

The old shrub ‘Anthony Waterer’ came with our house. Over the years, a locust tree grew to provide dappled shade.

‘Anthony Waterer’ grows as a rounded mound about 3 feet high and wide. The leaves are dark green with white or variegated sports thrown in here and there. (The golden or yellow cultivars like ‘Lemon Princess’ are brilliant against darker shrubs or evergreens.)


That said, the plant comes with a warning -

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources list of invasive plants in Pennsylvania, Japanese Spiraea is “Frequently planted; escaped in some areas.”

”ECOLOGICAL THREAT: Japanese spiraea can rapidly take over disturbed areas.

“BIOLOGY & SPREAD: A single Japanese spiraea plant produces hundreds of small seeds that are naturally dispersed by water and deposited along stream banks. Seeds may also be carried in fill dirt and establish new populations in the highly disturbed soil of construction sites.

“Spirea has cultivars that are not known to be invasive. . . . If you choose to plant a cultivar of an invasive species, ask a PA certified horticulturist (PCH), your Penn State extension agent, or a professional horticulturist about the cultivar's potential to be invasive.”

I make sure to dead head the shrub to remove the seeds. It was trimmed back to about 8 inches in the middle of March. When blooms begin to fade, I’ll use a hedge clipper to cut it back. It will bloom again and the blooms will continue into fall. Then I’ll give it another haircut. I haven’t heard any reports of Japanese spirea becoming invasive in our area.

Perhaps it’s the reliability of this plant that is also it’s curse.

(More information on spirea from Clemson University Extension.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hardy Geranium

Hardy Geranium ‘Splish Splash’

Some plants are so reliable that they almost vanish from your garden thinking – taken for granted. ‘Splish Splash’ is that kind of plant.

Planted in part shade and well drained soil, it blooms every June in my garden. I cut the spent flowers before they go to seed. It will re-seed but it’s not invasive. Three or four new plants have volunteered during the last seven years.
It blooms lightly all season. The ferny leaves look attractive even when it’s not in bloom.

The flower color is not as sharp as the pictures in catalogs. It was sold by a local nursery as White/Blue. Mine are mostly white with a hint of pale lilac.

'Splish Splash' is another plant to consider if you have a part shade spot. After it’s established, it will mostly take care of itself. (At least it does in my garden.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coleus Again

It’s been a busy gardening week. It seems as if I’ve been gardening all over town. I haven’t had much time to think about writing. So I thought I would post a picture of my favorite plant.

Coleus again.

If you haven’t already, check out information on Lyme disease posted on Weeds and Wildflowers. The link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the blog has information on prevention, symptoms and much more.

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rain Days Update

We continue to work in the garden between rain showers and storms.

The lilacs and other early spring blooming shrubs have been trimmed. Beaten by the rain, the peonies didn’t get a chance to put on their usual show. I sadly cut all the spent blooms yesterday.

But the rain has created a lush garden – a lot of flowers are happily blooming. The snapdragons from last year are in full bloom.

The Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronaries) fills the air with its orange blossom scent. (An interesting post on Mock Orange by Michele Owens at Garden Rant.)


The red and white Astilbe blooms in the shade garden. The lilac and pink Astilbes are forming buds. They all love the damp conditions.

Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia uvaria) has more blooms than usual at the corner of the garden.

The little shrub rose (Town & Country ‘Nashville’) holds up well against the rain. The constant damp weather creates an ideal condition to spread black spot but this little rose is rarely bothered by it.

A testament to rainy days, mushrooms grow in the mulch and lawn.

The weeds continue to appear throughout the garden. But the soft, damp soil is perfect for pulling them out. I’ve been wandering through the garden every clear day pulling weeds as I go. I keep telling myself it’s good exercise.

I hope the spring rain continues through the summer.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Roses in June

June is the month for roses. But, this week’s rain has definitely put a crimp in my rose viewing pleasure.

I snapped a few pictures between rainy days.

Rose ‘Blaze’ (above) has bright red blooms every year. It’s an outstanding color. We’ve seen people stop and take pictures with the roses as a background. It’s been in the family for two generations – propagated by burying part of a cane. I remember having the red roses in a vase at my graduation party. Family lore says it was originally liberated from Bethlehem’s Nisky Hill Cemetery.

Rose ‘Madam Isaac Pereire’

Black Spot

I do the best I can to prevent black spot. I use compost tea on the roses every two or three weeks. I spray canes and leaves with baking soda water in early spring and several times during the year - (1 gallon water, 2 tbs. baking soda, few drops of dish soap). I change the top layer of mulch in spring and fall. I make an effort to keep the beds free of fallen leaves and water only in the morning with a soaker hose.

Rose ‘Mrs. Baker’

I try to stay relaxed about black spot. If the roses get a little black spot it doesn't seem to cause permanent damage. The roses are healthy and there are plenty of other flowers in the garden by the time black spot appears.

Knock Out roses are supposed to be disease resistant. I’ve wanted to try a Knock Out rose for years. I have also wanted to add a yellow rose to the garden.

A $5 off sale at the local nursery on the new ‘Sunny Knock Out’ clinched the deal. Although the bright yellow roses fade to pale cream, the saving grace may be their fragrance. I can’t wait to see how it performs this summer.

I don't think 'Sunny Knock Out' will be any competition to the family status of ‘Blaze’ but it should be a nice addition to the rose bed.

(More information on black spot from Doug Green and from Virginia Cooperative Extension,)

(Background in the top picture is for Donna at
Mama Mia Days.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Miller’s House Garden

A look into the past with heirloom plants.

The Miller’s House Garden will be on Historic Bethlehem Partnership’s “Outdoor Rooms to View” House Tour on Saturday, June 6th. The garden is located next to Luckenbach Mill in the Bethlehem Colonial Industrial Quarter along the Monocacy Creek on Old York Road.

Dedicated 1989, the garden has been planned, planted and maintained by the Bethlehem Garden Club. The garden is representative of a Victorian Era garden – the time period when the grist mill was rebuilt after a fire.

According to the Miller’s House Garden Committee’s research of early Bethlehem gardens, “Climbing roses and wisteria made spectacular displays all around town.” In today’s garden, Wisteria sinensis (circa 1816) grows against the Memorial Garden wall. Rose Zaphirine drouhin (circa 1868) climbs the arbor in the Rose Garden.


In the Kitchen Gardens, Hyacinth Bean Lablab purpurea (circa 1804) with attractive purple flowers and purple bean pods twines itself around a black metal obelisk. The hyacinth bean was once grown in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello gardens. The beans were used dried making it a good winter staple. Also included are the heirloom tomato Lycopersicon esculentum Yellow Pear (predates 1800) and many herbs.

Herbs used for seasoning, drying and medicines are abundant in the Herb Garden. Lavender, oregano, sage, hyssop, chives, dill, feverfew, thyme, and horehound grow as examples of what might have been used in this era.

Gooseberry Ribes hirtellum (circa 1750) for gooseberry jam as well as currents Ribes triste (circa 1750) and rhubarb Rheum rhabarbarum (circa 1800) grow in the Mary Christman Memorial garden.

Yarrow, globe thistle, larkspur, pineapple sage, salvia, verbascum, peony and catmint are among the many flowering plants in the Drying Garden and Fragrant Garden.

A new Hillside Garden, started last year, contains examples of shrubs, grasses and perennials popular with later Victorian era gardeners. The Shed Garden is host to dogwood, sweet shrub and other flowering plants and trees.

The German four-square style garden is an adventure in garden history.

A complete list of plants will be available on the June 6th “Rooms to View” House Tour.

Master Gardeners will be available throughout the day with helpful gardening information and will be happy to talk to you about your gardening triumphs or troubles.