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Saturday, May 05, 2007

7 day to our Marching Band Plant Sale!

7 days, one week away from our Marching Band perennial plant sale. The weather today is glorious, cross you fingers that it's just like this one week from today.

(Sweet violets so happy to be saved from those munching bunnies)

Now that I'm finally happy with the number of plants potted up, I'm really enjoying straightening up the mess out there. I've moved my work area and tried to organize it a bit. It would have been smarter to do this before I began working but hey, that's life.

(About time I did this with my potting station.)

The weeds are growing as fast as the flowers, thank goodness my mom arrives on Wednesday. Mom's a weed machine. Just let her loose and your garden will look amazing!

A few new additions to our inventory. Some big blue Hosta sieboldiana, more Astilbe, Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' was just potted up this morning.

Super-size Me!

(Regular, Large and Jumbo pots of Astilbe $4, $6, $8, still a great deal!)

Last year a man stopped by and asked if I had any huge pots of Hosta. He specifically referenced the big pots that they sell at Costco. This year I decided to offer different sized pots of perennials. The prices obviously increase as the size of the pot gets larger. For those of you who are like me (instant gratification), you can supersize it and get a jumbo plant.

Short post today, got to work!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Plant Sale, 8 days away...

(Foxgloves are just amazing when they begin to bloom. One day they're just sitting there and almost over night they throw up these huge bloom laden stalks. Listen closely and you'll hear the echo of the big fat bumble bees as they slip in and out of each bell-like flower)

The weather has been absolutely perfect for gardening. Warm enough that you don't need a bulky extra layer and yet not so hot that everything wilts the second you dig it out.

Although I got a late start yesterday, it turned out to be a banner day in the garden. Lots of clean-up and organization, the lawn was mowed, and more potting. I can finally say the potting craze has left me. There are enough plants here that I can slow down and putter my way through the garden.

"Putter" gardening is great. You go from area to area, checking out your plants and suddenly you notice something that can be dug and potted up. These are the jewels of the garden that don't necessarily give you huge clumps to work with. Two pots of this, three of that, somehow I love those plants the most.

For the first time ever I was willing to dig up a clump of my all-time favorite, Stachys monierii. The only nick-name I could find for this plant is Betony but to be honest, I don't know if that's what people really call it. I could count on two fingers the times I've seen this plant in other gardens and I've visited hundreds and hundreds of gardens. Last year the plant market was finally hit with a variety named Stachys monierii 'Humello' which of course I had to buy and turned out to be a lovely purple bloom. The monierii variety I have is a pale pink, I bought years ago at Franks nursery. Four lucky people will go home with a nice big chunk of this beauty.

(The foliage on these Geranium sanguiniums has a delightful way of winding it's way through nearby plants and using them gently as a support without strangling anything.)

The hardy Geraniums are such wonderful additions to the garden. I have so many different varieties here, it's a wonder that they're not more popular. Many have lovely foliage besides their wonderful blooms. A Geranium sanguinium called out to me that it needed to be potted up. Surely I'll find more of them today. I'm also toying with the idea of taking out one whole clump of Geranium cantabrigense, I've got clumps of the pale pink variety of 'Biokovo' and also of the darker pink 'Karmina'. They are wonderful clumpers for the front of any border garden and look totally amazing if planted along a rock wall. Unfortunately they look horrendous in pots and I practically had to twist people's arms to get them to buy them in the past.

(Just look at these beautiful hardy geranium blooms! This is the variety 'Biokovo')

Of course I'll continue to dig daylilies. We still need a white variety and 'Ice Carnival' has been selected. Another yellow variety would be nice too and I've been leaning towards 'Floyd Cove'. Hmm, we'll also need some more dark purples and dark reds. The darker colored daylilies look so beautiful in a semi-shaded border and so many of the gardens around here have shade.

(Nepeta subsesslis is a tall, dramatic flower that has been on my "to-dig" list for a week now. There will only be 3 or 4 pots of this great plant because I just can't bear to part with too much!)

Ok, the itch is driving me crazy. I must get out in the garden!

See you later,

Thursday, May 03, 2007

9 day until our May 12th Plant Sale!

Inventory Time

In a nut shell, Perennial plant sale, May 12, 10am - 3pm
259 Beverly Road, South Huntington
Be there or be square

Yesterday I said I'd try to get together an inventory of plants and post it here. It's not quite finished yet and I'd rather be planting but here's what I've written down so far (not in any order, who has time to alphabetize!).

Nepeta mussinii (cat mint)
Coreopsis 'Zagreb' (thread leaf coreopsis)
Hosta 'Spritzer'
Hosta 'Veronica Lake'
Hosta 'Geisha'
Hosta 'Iron Gate Glamour'
Hosta 'Vanilla Cream'
Campanula punctata
Mazus reptens
Siberian Iris (blue)
Sisyrinchium (Blue-eyed oat grass)
Iris ensata 'Gracieuse'
Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba' (White bleeding heart)
Dicentra spectabilis ...(Pink bleeding heart)
Geranium 'Nimbus'
Daylily 'Mormon Spider'
Daylily 'Parati'
Daylily 'Mokan Butterfly'
Daylily 'Roses in Snow'
Daylily 'Siloam Double Classic'
Daylily 'Spider Miracle'
Daylily 'Stella D'Oro'
Daylily 'Chesapeake Crablegs'
Euphorbia polychroma (Cushion spurge)
Phlox 'Delta Snow'
Phlox 'David'
Boltonia (white)
Pulmonaria 'Azurea' (lungwort)
Sedum seboldii
Polygonatum (Variegated Solomon's Seal)
Polygonatum humile (dwarf Solomon's Seal)
Lamium 'Chequers'
Astilbe (Lavender variety)
Rudbeckia fulgida (Black eyed susan)
Alchemilla mollis (Ladies Mantle)
Echinacea (Purple cone flower)
Digitalis (Foxgloves)
Aruncus athusifolius (dwarf goats beard)
Stokesia 'Color wheel' (Stokes aster)
Lychnis coronaria (pink and white rose campion)
Sedum 'Matrona'
Sedum 'Vera Jameson'
Sedum aizoon 'Lemon Snowflakes'
Monarda 'Jacob Cline' (red)
Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield Pink'

And sure to be lots more! I'll try to get back here later to clean up this list a bit. Also, HUGE thanks to Richie from Zaino's nursery in Old Westbury for coming to the rescue and delivering a mountain of pots for us! Three cheers for Zaino's!!!


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Plant Sale, 10 days until May 12th!

(Daylily 'Russian Easter' has the most amazing color combination. I've never before offered any daylilies that are similar to this one.)

Here I am, back again with Wednesday mornings post. Yesterday was one of those run-around, go crazy kind of days and I barely made my daily quota of potting up 30 plants. While I still had about 50 smaller pots left, all the large pots have already been potted up and I still have tons of daylilies to divide.

Don and I made up posters and laminated color flyers that are being distributed as I write this, so hopefully we'll get lots more viewers here. If you are visiting for the first time, you can start reading here and as you scroll down you'll find each previous day's post.

For those of you with limited time, here's the basics. Our plant sale is going to be held May 12th, rain or shine at 259 Beverly Road, South Huntington NY (use google maps for directions) We open up at 10:00 am and close down at 3:00 pm although in past years we have sold out before closing.

ALL profits will be donated to the participating students of the Walt Whitman High School Marching Band. The money will be held in an account to pay a portion of band camp. With your help, it will hopefully be a large portion. Students will cheerfully help you load your plants into plastic bags and bring them to your cars (you will have to park along Beverly Road). We take cash and checks made out to the Walt Whitman Marching Band Parents Association.

Ready for today's questions?

What do you mean by "perennial"? What's the difference between perennial, annual and biennial?

Perennial plants are plants that die back over the winter but return again next spring. Generally they do not bloom as long as annuals which might bloom for many months before being killed by a frost. Perennials need time to gather strength for our long winters which is one reason for their shorter bloom season. Some perennials have extremely short bloom times, others can bloom for 6 to 8 weeks. My tip to you is to consider the foliage of the plant. If the foliage is beautiful to look at, you will enjoy the perennial even when it's not in bloom.

(This perennial hardy geranium was rescued growing up through a crack of ground cloth at Fox Hollow farm, just over on Foxhurst Road. It has rewarded me by growing into a lush clump over the past 5 years and puts out these delicious lilac colored blooms)

Annuals are plants that will survive for one garden season. Some plants that we consider annuals are actually very long lived in tropical climate like Coleus but here on Long Island they are killed by a frost. I've had people tell me that their impatiens can't be annuals because they've come back. Well, yes, your impatiens can come back but those are actually new plants that grew from seeds that last years impatiens dropped.

Biennial's are probably the least known type of flowers. A biennial is a plant that lives for two years. The first year it grows foliage and the second year it blooms. Once it blooms it drops seeds and then dies. Many nurseries call these plants "short lived perennials" which I think is a sales gimmick that is unfair to the buyer. Foxgloves (Digitalis) are a well known biennial and I cringe when I see people buying a whole wagon full of foxgloves in full bloom knowing that they are almost finished with their life span.

Why do your plants look different than those at the garden centers? Garden centers have found that they can only sell plants that are in full bloom or are about to burst into bloom. Since most people get the gardening fever in May, garden centers import plants from other parts of the country that have been pushed ahead of our bloom season. If you buy a Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida) in full bloom in late May, you might be surprised next year when they are still very small in the ground at that time. Black eyed Susan's typically bloom late July and all through the dog days of summer in August. The Black eyed Susan's here are growing at our time table, not that of southern Georgia and will bloom for you when they are supposed to bloom on Long Island.

(Coreopsis 'Zagreb' is one of those plants that doesn't look like much in a pot right now but when it gets to your garden it will quickly shine!)

What does the future hold? If only I had a crystal ball... What I'd like to see in the future is to bring this plant sale up to the high school. I'd like us to add other booths, maybe two or three photo spots for younger children to have a picture for Mom made by one of our schools clubs. I'd also love to be able to hold lectures that show actual plant propagation or talks on how to maintain your lawn.

Today I'm going to finish up this post with a photos and a brief spotlight on plants that we will have for sale.
Aruncus athusifolius is also known as dwarf goats beard. When it comes to plant names, there are nicknames and true botanical names. Since nicknames can change from one part of the country to another, the only way to get what you really want is to ask for a plant by the botanical name. Don't worry if you pronounce it wrong, everybody puts their own spin on how they say things. This Aruncus is one of the best plants in my garden. It has lovely foliage all season long, frothy white blooms in June and it maintains this perfect ball shape as if a bonsai fairy came over night and trimmed it for you.

Alchemilla mollis (Ladies mantle) is one of those plants that some nurseries have stopped selling. It looks so sad in the pot that people just don't buy it. Yet, it's a must have in the garden. In fact, if you walk around my garden here (and please do take the time to walk around) you will see that I have Ladies mantle in at least 15 different places. First of all, it does well in a good amount of sun as long as you water regularly but even better is that it also tolerates shade quite well! First thing in the morning it's studded all around with diamond dew drops, just like the hem of a Ladies mantle (cloak). This plant is included in just about every lecture I've ever done. As far as I'm concerned, I compare it to putting up decorative molding in your dining room. It makes every plant near it look better.

This afternoon I hope to have an inventory of the 410 plants that are already potted up so stay tuned.

Getting muddy today,
Melanie Vassallo

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Plant Sale, 11 days and counting

(This white bleeding heart has been divided up into a few jumbo pots)


I'm back again, chock full of more information for our perennial plant sale to help send the student members of the Walt Whitman High School Marching Band to band camp.

As many of you know, this is a blog and it works like a diary. Scroll down for yesterday's entry and the one from the day before. You will quickly get all the information you need about our wonderful sale which will be held on May 12th.

Ready for today's questions? The number one question I get asked is "Why?", Why do you have this plant sale? How can you have this many plants to give away?? Why do you give them to the marching band???

Any experienced gardener can tell you that after time certain plants multiply to the point where you have more than you need. This doesn't happen with annuals (plants that are killed in our temperature zone over the winter) but it does happen with biennials (more later on that word) and perennials (plants that return year after year). Some perennials increase at the base, just getting wider, some send out runners that pop up near the mother plant and others reseed through out your garden.

We have a large piece of property for our town, well over an acre and much of it is planted in perennial borders. As those plants increased, I was constantly looking for ways to share them with others instead of tossing them on the compost heap. If you grow 3 foxgloves and they each give you three more seedlings, you end up with 9 foxgloves and you are a happy gardener. If you have 40 foxgloves and they each give you 3 seedlings, you end up with 120 foxgloves and you run out of friends to share them with!

(I have a Sedum knot garden and they need dividing, nothing is easier to grow than Sedum and there aren't too many perennials that look as awesome as they do for most of the year.)

A few years ago a co-worker from my husband Don's office came by and I loaded his SUV twice with plants from my garden. Don pointed out to me that I had just given away hundreds of dollars worth of perennials and it made me start to think. What if I sold those plants instead? Well, I don't have a nursery or my own business, I just like to write and lecture about gardening. The next spring our daughter was a freshman in the marching band and they were having an early spring garage sale. I didn't have any household junk to bring so I dug daylilies, black eyed susans, purple cone flowers and sedum. They sold like hotcakes and I handed over $400 to the co-president of the marching band at that sale. There were still lots of plants in the garden so I suggested we have a second sale, just for plants, and that's how this plant sale began.

Now that you know the history, lets get back to what's important.

Got Shade? My first gardens here were for my daylilies and other sun loving perennials. It wasn't until those gardens were established that I started learning about shade gardening. Shade is something that Long Islanders have to deal with. There are tons of trees here on the north shore and if you have a 1/4 acre yard with just one large tree, you are going to have lots of shade! Over time I fell in love with my shade gardens, they're soothing and so much easier to work in once the warmer weather comes. Hosta have become a mini-obsession, along with other amazing foliage plants to light up those dark corners. Japanese painted ferns are another craze, I can't wait to have enough of those to share with you.

(What a beauty, I didn't put the name of this hosta in my photo program but it's just delicious)

Lotsa Hosta! This is the first year I have named Hosta plants in the sale. What does that mean? Well, to most of you, it doesn't mean anything. When a new hybrid plant is created, it's registered with the appropriate plant society and give a name. If you want a specific plant that looks exactly so, you need to know the registered name of that plant. Do all plants have names? No, and those plants grow just as well. In the past, we've sold seedlings from our Hosta sieboldiana (a large blue leaved Hosta) and lots and lots of green hosta. Those green ones had a name at some time but the person who gave them to me forgot the name. It doesn't really matter, they grow wonderfully and do the job I want from them, they look beautiful!

For the first time, I dug named Hosta with all kinds of different color variegations in the leaf and potted those up. They are priced between $5 and $8 which is a fantastic bargain. For those of you who need an instant fix, there will also be some jumbo pots at $10.

When buying Hosta, there are a few things you need to know. Hosta are shade tolerant, that means they will grow in the shade but they will also grow in a good amount of sunshine if they are watered often. Generally the darker the leaf color (especially the blue hosta), the more shade they need to keep that coloration. The lighter the leaf color (there are some amazing chartreuse colored hosta) the more sun they require to keep that lighter color.

(Hosta 'Spritzer' looks awesome with half a day of sunlight and we've got it potted up!)

Hosta come in all kinds of sizes from teeny tiny ones with leaves the size of my thumb, to huge elephant eared Hosta that quickly grow to 6' across. With 150 hosta here, I have all kinds of colors and sizes.

When buying a Hosta, look at how many divisions are coming out of the pot. Yesterday I stopped at Home Depot and most of their 2.5 pint potted hosta had 2 eyes (divisions) emerging. Those were priced $5.99. Here, I tried to keep my smallest divisions at 5 eyes. The jumbo pots have way more than that.

(I wish this image was sharper but this is Corydalis lutea which is a darling little shade lover that pops out of my rock retaining walls)

What other shade plants will be for sale? Many hardy Geraniums actually prefer the shade and we have a wonderful variety called Geranium nodosum. I don't have a photo of this beauty but you can type that name into Google images and you'll get the idea. Ladies mantle (Achemilla mollis) is another stunning plant that will take both sun and shade, it's one of my top five favorites here. Variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum) is another favorite along with the tiny yellow Corydalis. Maybe we'll even have some white Primula.

Although I still have so much I want to write, it's sunny outside and the plants are calling me. 375 pots are done so far, I need to pot up at least 150 more! Today will be Sedum 'Matrona', Solomon's seal and of course some stunning daylilies.

Don't forget, come see us on May 12th, if you can't make it then, write to me at and we'll try to set up a sneak preview for you.

Pass this on, we need lots of advertisement!


Monday, April 30, 2007

Plant Sale, 12 days and counting!

(Daylily 'Laura Harwood', a dark beauty that blooms in August which is late even for a daylily. How nice to have a perennial that blooms during pool season when so many others have finished and are browning out due to summer heat.)

Well, here I am again, hopefully bringing lots of information about our up-coming plant sale.

After yesterday's post I realized that I forgot the most important thing. Where is the sale???

The sale is at my house, just go to google maps and type in 259 Beverly Road, Huntington Sta. NY 11746 and it will give you directions. We live on the part of Beverly Road that runs south of Jericho Turnpike, right before it intersects with Fox Hollow Road and Old Country Road.

While folding the laundry last night I came up with some more possible questions so I'll post those until I hear from some of you.

This sounds like a good cause, how can I help? You can help by spreading the word! Maybe you're reading this blog but don't live on Long Island. Well, send an e-mail out to some friends who do live here, I think just about everybody in the world knows somebody on Long Island :-)

What's your goal? Two years ago we brought in $2,000. The students who worked a half day shift earned $50 towards band camp. A few worked a full day shift and earned just over $100. My goal for 2007 is to blow those numbers out of the water!

(Euphorbia polychroma (bottom left corner) is a favorite here every year and I think I'd better pot up some more!)

How do your plants compare with those at local nurseries? The plants here are at least as good as what you'd get at one of the major home improvement chains and the selection is better. Our prices run from fair to bargain basement. Many perennials such as Rudbeckia (Black eyed susans), Echinacea (Purple cone flowers), Liatris, Phlox 'David', Phlox 'Delta Snow' and Coreopsis 'Zagreb' will be $4 for a one gallon pot. There are also lots of pots of Hakonachloa (Hakone grass) for $4 and that's better than wholesale prices!

(In this photo you can see how lovely Hakone Grass (top left corner) combines with just about any Hosta (bottom left corner) to fill a shady spot in the garden.)

Some plants are extremely limited. There are only three pots of Pulmonaria angustifolia 'Azura' and I expect them to disappear almost immediately. Yesterday I began digging the Polygonatum. We'll have the dwarf humile variety and the variegated Polygonatum odoratum variegatum for sale.
(Pulmonaria angustifolia 'Azurea' has heavenly blue flowers and non-typical lungwort foliage. No spots! A big bonus is this plant grows like the dickens.)

Only three daylily varieties have been dug so far but there's 20 more on the "to-do" list. With over 400 daylilies here you can tell that I'm just crazy about them.

(Daylily 'Chorus Line' is a beauty, loved by gardeners all over the world shouldn't you have a piece in your garden too?)

If you're new to blogging, they are kind of like an on-line diary. For more information on the plant sale you have to read yesterday's post which comes after this one.

Off to dig!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Plant Sale May 12, 2007

Hooray! It's Plant Sale Time!

Please bear with me, the next two weeks of posts will be dedicated to our Plant Sale.

What kind of plant sale is it? Why, it's a perennial plant sale :-) and this is our 4th year now. All the plants have been grown in my garden here in South Huntington, on Long Island, zone 6b or have been donated from other gardens in this town.

ALL the profits from this sale will be donated to the participating students of the Walt Whitman High School Marching Band. The money will be held in a special account in each child's name to help pay for band camp. When we say ALL profits, we mean ALL, only the costs of holding this sale (potting soil and any advertising) will be taken from the total intake.

How do they participate? They eat donuts in our breezeway. Well, ok, they really help our customers put the plants in plastic bags, load up the wagons and bring them out to their cars. But there's lots of donut and bagel eating too!

When is the sale? Traditionally it's been held on Mother's Day weekend and this year will be the same. Saturday May 12, 2007 is the date. We open at 10:00 am and close at 3:00 pm (unless we sell out before that time and that has happened in the past).

What kind of plants are for sale? Hybrid Daylilies galore, Hosta (this is the first year we will also offer named Hosta varieties), Phlox, Iris, Astilbe, and so much more! Stay tuned, every day we'll add a new post and hopefully lots of pictures and growing information.

Hopefully we'll get some local folks to visit this site. This afternoon I put a sign out on the front lawn with the address. If you know of somebody on Long Island who would be interested, tell them about us!

Questions? Please post lots and lots of questions, I'd love to answer them for you. If you are having problems posting in the comment section, send me an e-mail at and I'll post them here for you.

Almost 300 pots already potted up with 25 different types of perennials so far! By next week you won't be able to stand on our front stoop or walkway!

Thinking Green,