Lavender is in bloom!

Lovely lavender is blooming here at Butternut Gardens LLC and you can pick some up at The Little White Flower Cottage on site here.  I grow three varieties and all smell heavenly. Guess who loves lavender as much as you do... bumblebees. They are all over this wonderful flower. With our bumblebee populations declining, I love knowing that I am growing something, which helps them. I ask you to please consider growing some lavender plants if you have space for them. Lavender prefers full sun and good drainage. You can add builder's sand to give better drainage. Also, lime will increase your soil's pH, which is also beneficial to lavender since it likes a bit more alkaline a soil than our soils are naturally. Beyond this, lavender is not tricky. You will enjoy the flowers, the gorgeous silvery grey foliage and the visiting bumblebees.

Phlox - Soft, Fragrant and Beautiful

Phlox at Butternut Gardens

Phlox at Butternut Gardens

Garden Phlox is not only gorgeous, but also offers one of the nicest, softest scents of summer. A bouquet of phlox will quickly infuse your home with floral fragrance, and you won't regret it for a second! With blooms ranging from lavender to white, light pink to very deep pink, salmon and several bi-color varieties as well, Phlox offers a rich variety of blooms for floral designs and gardens alike. Phlox are long-blooming and have been a garden favorite for over a hundred years.  By growing a number of varieties, I am able to cut Phlox from mid- or late-June on and off through the Fall.

David's Lavender Phlox - one of the best for mildew-resistance

David's Lavender Phlox - one of the best for mildew-resistance

Fleur du Jour - Iris coming in May

Siberian Iris at Butternut Gardens

Siberian Iris at Butternut Gardens

I love Iris and grow three major types - Dutch Iris, bearded or German Iris, and Siberian Iris. They are gorgeous additions to the late May and early June bouquets and arrangements. Some of the bearded Iris have absolutely amazing fragrance to boot.

Good news - we are inching closer to this year's Iris. - only 85 more days based on first cut date in 2014.

Also, anyone noticing how much more daylight we have these days? Maybe hard to tell with all the snow around here. In any event, we are less than 1 month away from the first day of Spring, or vernal equinox. Kick up your heels, folks!

Fleur du Jour - Bright Yellow Zinnias in only 4 more months

I feel like all I have doing this winter is staring at spreadsheets, as I plan this upcoming season, and staring at snowflakes. Add in a bit of shoveling to make pathways for the dog, and that just about sums it all up. This is what makes it so hard to believe that in only 4 months I will likely be looking at some amazing rows of zinnias - true summer flowers. One of the hardest things for me to do is to wait to start all of the seeds.  Some seeds, including zinnias, simply do not take very long to get going. Starting seeds too early is counterproductive. There is no benefit to having a seedling waiting unnecessarily for warm enough weather to be planted outside. It is best to be patient (and finish up the paperwork while you still have time to think). Once the season starts, thinking time is all but nonexistent.

Booking 2015 Weddings with Dahlia Love

I thought I would offer up Dahlias as today's fantastic Fleur du Jour as both a way to really make us miss, I MEAN LOOK FORWARD TO, summer and as a way to say I AM NOW TAKING BOOKINGS FOR 2015 WEDDINGS.  

While many people think of Dahlias as fall flowers, which they most certainly are, Dahlias here start blooming at the tail end of June and early July. Different varieties are earlier or later by nature in showing off their remarkable blooms. Some variability also results from how early or late spring arrives and from how "on time" I am with putting the tubers in the field. Last year it was cold longer and I was later. That said, I cut the first flower on July 7. If you are planning a wedding before July, no need to worry as plenty of amazing flowers bloom before the dahlias!

For couples looking for late summer and fall weddings, Dahlias can be a lovely addition to bouquets, centerpieces and other floral designs. As a rule, I like to limit my full service weddings to one a day so as to give the best of myself and my flowers. I will add bulk flower orders for DIY brides who are making their own arrangements and will put together bouquets or other wear and carry pieces for the same day for my "Something In Between" brides if I feel I can do so with the quality I demand.  So, as we wait for dahlias together, please contact me soon if you, or someone you know, are looking for your 2015 wedding florist. Congratulations to all the BEAUTIFUL  wedding couples and their families.

More June Blooms

The bright yellow yarrow in lower right puts real zip into any bouquet. Yellow and orange red hot pokers can be seen in the center of this grouping.

The bright yellow yarrow in lower right puts real zip into any bouquet. Yellow and orange red hot pokers can be seen in the center of this grouping.

In the previous Fleur du Jour I highlighted the bright and smashing red hot pokers, which actually come in many shades from red to orange to yellow as well as mixes of the above.

Today I want to share a lovely pink and yellow combination from June, in which the yellow red hot poker and amazing yellow yarrow work beautifully with the season's pink dianthus, pink larkspur and pink Canterbury bells.

Last year I cut 295 stems of the truly striking yellow yarrow known as Coronation Gold for early summer bouquets, and saved another 125 stems for fall cuts.

By the time I take the fall cuts, the once bright yellow flower heads are a perfectly muted golden tone for the fall palette.

With first cuts of Coronation gold yarrow made on June 10th last year, we have just over 120 days (and much snowmelt) to go to 2015 blooms.

Delphiniums mean June!

Let's keep the color coming as we dream of spring and summer flowers, and give the nod for today's Fleur du Jour to our wonderful Delphinium. From soft, light blue, to royal blue, to deep, rich dark-as-night blue our many colors of Delphinium add gorgeous color to complement or strike a contrasting note with other flowers. Let's not forget that we also have access to white and lavender Delphinium as well. Last year's first Delphinium cuts were taken on June 3rd and we had beautiful blue blooms the whole month through for a total of 354 stems. What's fun about Delphinium is that every year I always get some late summer and fall blooms to clip and add to our strong late season colors.

A splash of color to a summer bouquet

A splash of color to a summer bouquet

A Dahlia's Year

One of the rites of summer around here at Butternut Gardens is seeing which variety of dahlia will be the first to bloom, and when it will happen.  Some naturally bloom a bit earlier, but of the early bloomers, there is always a bit of variation. Two years ago, 'Bashful' broke the barrier on June 28. Last year it was 'Jitterbug', also on June 28, and this year, a red Karma won the race, but several weeks later owing to a late spring, and my delay in putting the tubers in the ground.

From that day in mid-summer until the first

hard frost, which is usually around October

15, I enjoy hundreds of dahlias blooming

every day in their absolutely stunning array of



Look carefully, and you will see one of my

dinner plate dahlias, called 'Ice Cube' to the

left. It truly is the size of a dinner plate! 



Dahlias survive the first light frosts of fall, as do many bees, which end up spending the night on the blooms.

As a rule, I will not cut a bloom with a resting bee. Come cool days and nights, I often delay my morning cutting until the warmth of the sun gets my little friends wiggling and buzzing. In fact, a number of bees even survive the first hard frost, when the dahlias do not.

As soon as this first hard frost hits, the dahlias are immediately done for the season as far as cut flowers go.

For two weeks or so in mid- to late-October, I do nothing, but I know each of the dahlia tubers is hardening off underground.

The leaves, meanwhile, turn brown and black.

Come early November, I cut the stems to about six inches above ground.

Within the week, I gently pull all dahlias from the ground by hand, and maybe the slight help of a shovel.




It amazes me that what went into the ground as a single "fingerling potato-sized" tuber, emerges as a mammoth cluster of tubers, some nearly two feet in diameter, others more round, but with equally numerous new tubers attached.

Digging dahlias in bulk is heavy work, as so much growth quietly takes place under the summer sun.


Once out of the ground, I physically cut the clump apart (not easy work) keep one tuber per plant, rinse off the soil and write the name of the tuber variety on the tuber itself with permanent marker. For several days, I let the tubers dry in the sun on newspapers. Then, it is time to box them up for winter storage. I overwinter dahlias in moistened pet shavings place in cardboard boxes. I use clear shavings, not cedar shavings, and I mix in just enough water to make the shavings moist, but not truly wet. Too wet will promote rot. Too dry, and the tubers will shrivel and may not be as viable come spring.

My dahlias "winter" in the cooler where they enjoy temperatures in the low 40's. Every month, or so, I peek in a couple of the boxes to make sure I don't have rot, or to sprinkle a bit of water if anything seems dry.


Depending on temperatures, dahlia planting for the new growing season begins mid-April to mid-May.

By then, rows are tilled and waiting.

I put a bit of bone meal at equal intervals down the rows, and this helps me set my spacing for the tubers.

Following the advice of a long-time dahlia farmer, I plant my dahlias close to the natural surface level and then "hill up" over the tubers.

I do not water when I plant.

It takes weeks for the first shoots to break the surface, which is long enough for me to wonder if anything is ever going to happen.

Sure enough, it does, and it is always very exciting watching rows of soil become rows of dahlias! If, by chance, a late spring frost hits after shoots emerge, it does, in fact, kill off early shoot growth, but the tubers underground fare fine, and the dahlias thrive nonetheless.

I try to set up support netting as soon as

possible once the shoots appear, since

dahlias tend to grow and branch rather


First I do a careful weeding, and then set up

rows of 6" x 6" support netting.

Even though it costs more, I personally do

not like to see plants growing in bare soil, so

I add wood bark mulch (not fresh wood

chips) at this time as well.


When new shoots reach 12" to 18" I do a single "pinch" meaning I cut the stems to prompt the remaining stem to branch at the pinch point. Then, once again, I wait, as each plant pushes out more leaves, the first small buds, and, finally, sometime in late June or early July, that first fully developed dahlia bloom. Thus, the dahlia's year comes full cycle, once again, and it is time, once again, for the myriad of dahlias to shine in farm bouquets, table arrangements and the hands of many radiant brides.

Ummmm.... that's a lot of dahlias and it is only one of my dahlia growing areas! Hard to believe they all start from scratch every year.

Ummmm.... that's a lot of dahlias and it is only one of my dahlia growing areas! Hard to believe they all start from scratch every year.