Matthiola incana 'Cinderella Mix'

This choice early variety will be the belle of the ball in your favorite flower bed. Delightfully fragrant drifts of color range from magenta to lavender to the purest of whites. Plants are multi-branching and sturdy with numerous flower spikes on each plant. Easy to grow and excellent as a front of the border plant. Recipient of the Award of Garden Merit by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society.

Matthiola, named after an Italian botanist, has been referred to as “the one stock which pays rich dividend no matter what the whimseys of the market.” This cottage garden favorite performs well under cool conditions and requires just moderate watering.

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I was talking with my brother the other day about this catalog mock-up I put together as part of a sample spread, sharing with him the quote "the one stock which pays rich dividend no matter what the whimseys of the market". My friend Alice T.A. Quackenbush again, The Annuals of Flowerland (1927). I remarked to him how appropriate her comment from 1927 remained today in light of current market woes. But he was more taken with the reference to Italian botanist Mattioli. As a coincidence it turns out my brother purchased some hand-colored illustrations by Pietro Andrea Mattioli published in 1568. Mattioli was responsible for the transition of the study of plants for medicinal purposes to the study of plants as objects of interest themselves. To find out more about these illustrations and

The 'Cinderella Mix' was purchased from Chiltern Seeds in Cumbria, England and proved itself worthy all summer long of being a recipient of Oxfordshire's Garden Centre Association's "Fragrance of the Year" award. The scent of stock still transports me back to early girlhood years in northern California where my parents grew stock as a garden staple.


Urban Environmental Stewardship

Urban Environmental Stewardship initiatives are on the increase in the northeastern part of the country. Just such an initiative can be found situated on the main campus of a centrally located Connecticut urban community college. 55 acres of land that was originally intended for a sports and physical fitness complex was left undeveloped after the property was more fully sited and it was determined that resources would not support the facilities.

In the late 1990s a local scout proposed to develop a two loop trail system to meet the education, recreation and fitness goals of the college and surrounding communities. Remedial clean up work was completed with the help of scouts, college staff and community volunteers and trails were cleared. Subsequent development and system maintenance resulted in the trail system evolving to the next phase. College course activities involving the trail system were integrated into science programs. Summer enrichment programs for children included orienteering classes. Non-credit introductory courses featured hiking methods and college faculty, staff and area community members began using the trail for fitness and recreation.

I hiked the circuit trail yesterday afternoon to familiarize myself with the current state of development of the system. Despite leaves covering the trails and in some cases the trail markers themselves, I was able to make my way to the wetland area, across the boulder fields, through open woods to the upper access road, back down through a large stand of Christmas ferns and below to the trailhead. The trail was not easy to follow in some areas and the terrain steep, especially near the beginning of the trail. But the land was full of signs of wildlife and an abundance of healthy native plants. Very much well worth the effort of the avid hiker or curious nature walker willing to take and hour or so to explore this, as of yet, still somewhat undeveloped trail system.

And here's the best news. This year the college prepared a long range plan for the trail system. The plan outlines a number of projects necessary for the college to meet its objective of making this valuable resource a healthy educational and recreational forest environment for students, faculty, staff, and community members for years to come. An impressive strategic master plan includes projects such as a wetlands boardwalk for observation and study, an outdoor amphitheater for classroom instruction, the development of a Science Teacher Institute to focus on the environmental sciences at the elementary and middle school levels, a management system for ongoing trail maintenance and, yes, even gardens!

How exciting to see such a creative and comprehensive plan of responsible stewardship for 55 acres of forestland located in one of the state's largest cities.


Gourdy Details

On vacation last April in southern Virginia I marveled at a set of jewelry made from miniature bottle gourds in a local artisan's shop. Clever tiny dried shells painted and threaded with earring hooks and pendant chains. Lovely.

Came home determined to grow buckets of the little ornamental babies. I ordered seed online, started them on propagation mats under lights on May 18th and planted the seedlings in the raised bed on June 1st.

All summer long I tied them up on their two trellises - first the tiny tendrils then thick fuzzy stems and by August they were snakes creeping along trellis tops and spilling into the forsythia hedge behind them. White blossoms appeared by the second week of the month and I began pinching out the growing tips daily only to have new snakes emerge and thrive. By the end of the month I gave up and let them have their way. The forsythia, weighted down by the vines, didn't need a second pruning as in past years. Worked for me.

I harvested 15 bulbous beauties last weekend ranging in size from 2" to 5". To help with the curing process I've been faithfully wiping them down every day with rubbing alcohol to keep their outside skin clean. I found the passive air vent in the living room makes a great drying rack but the location is conveniently situated within reach of the cats. Lost the tiniest 2 incher mid-week to their fun and games. What a racket they made with it on the hardwood floors. The house sounded like a bowling alley and they reduced the little thing to a pulp.

Now I'm left with 14. And they're not as tiny as those little southern Virginia gems. Suggestion from the same disbelieving garden reality show friend - a themed calendar. Works for me.


Gardening for the Adventure of It!

I was talking with some friends this morning about the current state of affairs for garden writers with less demand for quality articles than there used to be. And now even the gardening shows on television have much less to do with gardening than they do with home decorating in reality show formats with a little landscaping work thrown in on the side. One of my friends laughed at me when I told her I could write a reality gardening show. Just you wait.