This is The Garden Artist, my blog where I write about my passion for my Art and my Garden. Take a stroll down the garden path with me.

The Dance in the Garden – Homage to Matisse

While composing this painting of the light blue irises, I began to visualize the rhythmic composition in the famous painting “The Dance” by Henri Matisse. I often visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC where his work is prominently displayed.

I find his painting joyous. Buoyant. This is how I felt while creating this painting.

The Dance in the Garden - Homage to Matisse

The Dance in the Garden – Homage to Matisse

“The Dance in the Garden- Homage to Matisse”

30×40″ Mixed Media on Canvas

To see pricing, availability and to purchase this Painting or Limited Edition Prints securely with Paypal click here.


Adding a Tree to my Garden

In October of 2012, Superstorm Sandy felled 4 large Oak trees in my woodland garden. We were lucky that was the only damage we suffered in that severe storm other than loss of electricity. Instantly my garden went from full shade to sunshine a dappled shade. What a transformation for it and for me.

Oak tree lost in battle with Hurricane Sandy

Oak tree lost in battle with Hurricane Sandy

After a period of mourning, I started rethinking, planning and studying what to do with this newfound daylight.

Oak tree stump with new birch tree

Oak tree stump with new birch tree

One of the mighty Oak trees was left with an interesting sculptural remnant which I originally planned to keep in remembrance of what had been. As usual, I changed my mind as I started designing and replanting. I change my mind all the time as I work in my garden.

Stump grinder

Stump grinder

I decided to plant a Heritage River Birch, Betula nigra “Heritage” in memory of my Uncle Teddy who introduced me to gardening. As a child visiting him in Schenectady from my treeless home in Brooklyn, he one day found me peeling the bark from one of his many white birch trees. When he asked me to stop as I was pulling the “skin” from the tree and hurting it, I looked around and realized that the entire garden was alive. I was transformed!

So this tree is for him, Theodorus Hendrik Gerrits, 1914 – 1991. Thank you!

New Heritage River Birch Tree

New Heritage River Birch Tree


Tree Recommendations

Fall colors of the Ginkgo tree

Fall colors of the Ginkgo tree

Recently I was asked about replanting trees after the destruction of Storm Sandy. I’ve given a lot of thought to this issue since my garden lost 4 large oaks which were living here before I moved into the shade they kindly provided me.

Following the storm, my arborist Ron Strauss of Tree Believers, (631-864-5514) sent his newsletter , “The Root of the Matter”, with recommendations of what to and what not to replant. Here is what he said:

We recommend that you do not re-plant using the following species of trees (all commonly planted in LI landscapes) that did not endure the storms well.

  • Emerald Green Arborvitae
  • Linden
  • Crabapple
  • Leyland Cypress
  • White Pine
  • Red Oak
  • Norway or Crimson King Maple
  • Flowering Pear
  • Douglas Fir
  • Weeping Willow

Now to the question of planting recommendations his list included:

  • Sycamore
  • Sugar maple
  • Magnolia
  • Beech
  • White Oak
  • Magnolia
  • Sweetgum
  • Blackgum
  • Baldcypress
  • Dawn Redwood
  • Dogwood
  • Green Giant Arborvitae
  • Gingko
  • Holly
  • Cryptomeria
  • Katsuratree
  • Weeping Cherry
  • Hollywood Juniper
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Chamacyparis
  • Hawthorne

For our smaller gardens, trees that I recommend and have or will be planting are:

  • Dogwood ‘Stellar Pink’ (this is one of the disease resistant Rutgers hybrids) 15-30’ ht & spread. Pink flowers in early summer.
  • Stewartia pseudocamellia var. koreana. Quite slow growing 30’ht, 20’ spread. Decorative bark. White flowers in early summer. Single or multi-trunk.
  • Heptacodium miconoides, Seven-son flower. (recommended by Katherine Tracey of Avant Gardens) 15-20’ ht by 8-10’ spread. Full sun. Bloom time:Sept.

For more particulars of each of these trees, don’t forget to search Google for more information to help you make the right investment choice for your own garden.


Rethinking My Garden

For the past 25 years I’ve cultivated my woodland gardens. For the first decade I cleared the tangled woods, studied the indigenous plants, planned paths and materials. I worked on creating a natural looking shade garden focusing on the large oak trees and Kalmia that inhabited this spot of land before I showed up.

A lot of thinking and sweat went into this garden. I selected what shrub trees, like the untold numbers of small cherries, that needed to be removed. Purged, or shall I say, paid someone to purge the thick growths of poison ivy. Fought and pulled, yanked and grunted bales and bales of ivy from the trees and ground in a continuing war for dominance.

When the bones were clear I began to plant. The lists of shade tolerant shrubs and perennials read like a who’s who of my garden. Mistakes were made. Shade is not shade. Lessons learned. Successes were savored. Learning that gardening in shade reduces the need for weeding, plus you perspire less. Perfect!

Oak tree lost in battle with Hurricane Sandy

Oak tree lost in battle with Hurricane Sandy

But Sandy decided she knew better and redesigned my garden. She blew in and knocked down three large oak trees and a beech thereby instantly transforming my beloved woodland shade garden into a sun-splashed mecca. Thousands of weeds instantly rejoiced by dancing in the new sunshine, prancing in the beds and mulched walkways. Ivy rebounded with a vengeance of superiority, eyeing triumph. Scores of broken and battered kalmia, enkianthus, leucothoe, rhodi’s, azaleas, viburnum, hammemelis,  and andromeda wept.

And now?? Lessons begin again.

Looking for low-maintenance in the sunshine? Remembering our club trip to the Highline designed by Piet Oudorf, my Dutch hero, I’m creating new plant lists with sunshine in mind to cover the time for my new gingko to grow and spread. Shade my grandson will perhaps enjoy in case I miss it.

Amsonia, salvia, achillea, aster, coreopsis, Echinacea, eremurus, liriope, persicaria, rudbeckia, sedum, helianthus, and grasses, yes many textures and heights of grasses. I’m excited now that my period of mourning has passed. Excited by all the new possibilities in the sunshine.



Thanksgiving Pie Facts

Here are some tidbits of information about some of American’s favorite pies.

PumpkinsPumpkin Pie

Pumpkins are vining annual plants that are part of the Cucurbitaceae or Cucumber family. They are actually winter squash named Cucurbita pepo with the oldest pumpkin related seeds found in Mexico dating back to between 7000 & 5500 BC.

Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica but the traditional American pumpkin that we are familiar with is the Connecticut Field variety. Pumpkins produce both male and female flowers on each vine and are pollinated by honey bees.

Red Apple Apple Pie

Apples are formally named Malus domestica and they are from the rose family of Rosaceae. The fruit is a pome, which is characterized by one or more carpels surrounded by accessory tissue. This tissue is the edible part and is useful in protecting the buried seeds.

Apple trees were widely planted and seeds distributed by John Chapman who became known as “Johnny Appleseed”. This wide distribution of open pollinated seed helped to widen the choice of available cultivars in early America to over 8,000 of which 100 are grown commercially today.

Ipomoea batatas - Sweet PotatoesSweet Potato Pie

Ipomaea batatas or sweet potatoes belong to the Convolvulaceae family. It is an herbaceous perennial vine, with an edible long and tapered tuberous root. Though distantly related to the potato in the Solanum tuberosum family, it is not a nightshade plant. It was domesticated over 5,000 years ago in either Central or South America but is the staple food for many countries worldwide.

For most of American history sweet potatoes were an important part of the diet but fell out of favor as people became more affluent during the middle of the 20th century. There has been a resurgence of popularity with the awareness of the rich dietary contributions offered by this humble plant.

Life is uncertain, Eat Dessert First!

Disclosure: Facts were gathered from the internet especially Wikipedia.


Anatomy and Propagation of a True Bulb


Bulbs (which are referred to as “true bulbs”) grow in layers, much like an onion. At the very center of the bulb is a miniature version of the flower itself. It is composed of a shortened stem covered with modified leaves called scales. Helping the bulb to stay together is something called a basil plate, which is a round, flat area that are the beginnings of the roots on the bottom of the bulb.

Many plants such as daffodils form new bulbs around the original bulb. These bulbs, called offsets, develop from buds within the base of the mother bulb and produce new plants. When these bulbs become over-crowded, the flowers start to diminish in size. This is an indication that it is time to dig up and divide the bulbs.

Examples of True Bulbs: Tulips, Daffodils and Alliums commonly known as Onions

Yellow Onion Bulb

After I finished the drawing I put cut up the onion and put in a stir-fry for dinner. Yummy!



The true bulb has five major parts.

BASEL PLATE: bottom of the bulb which hold the bulb together and from which the roots grow


primary storage tissue


skin-like covering that protects the fleshy scales


consisting of developing flower and leaf buds


develop into bulblets or offsets


Daffodil Divisions and Classifications

Daffodil Coloring Book from Daffodil SocietyDaffodils are classified using two parts of the flower. For the purpose of this description, the daffodil is divided into two regions, the perianth (petals) and corona (cup).

In further classifying daffodils the perianth (petals) is described by identifying first the outside edge of the petal, then the middle, and lastly the inside part next to the corona.

The information I am providing in this article is gleaned from two sources, The American Daffodil Society and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.  Both of these websites offer untold amounts of information and make enjoying the spring displays even more rich.

The Daffodil Society even has downloadable & printable coloring books for those individuals who work with children’s groups. Brent and Becky’s information filled Fall Bulb catalog arrived just in time for Spring so that we can go out to view daffodils in other gardens and make a list for next year’s display.

All daffodils are classified into one of the thirteen divisions described below:

Dvision 1 Trumpet daffodil - BravoureDivision 1 – TrumpetOne flower to a stem, corona (trumpet or cup) as long or longer than the perianth segments (petals).Trumpets usually produce larger bulbs than other divisions. Most have gray/green foliage ½” – 1” wide
Division 2 Large cup daffodil - Capree ElizabethDivision 2 – Large CupOne flower to a stem, corona (cup) more than one third but less than equal to the length of the perianth segments (petals).The group that you see the most often used in gardens; perfect for perennializing, picking, forcing and showing; some of the showiest daffodils are in this division and are the ones that give you more ‘bang for your landscape buck’.
Division 3 Short cup daffodil - MerlinDivision 3 – Short CupOne flower to a stem, corona (cup) not more than one third the height of the perianth segments (petals).These are long term perennializers, show flowers and late season picked flowers, often with a spicy fragrance.
 Division 4 Double daffodil - DaphneDivision 4 – DoubleDaffodils have a clustered cup, petals or both.  There can be one or more flowers per stem.Camellia or roselike flowers; with single of multiple blooms; good for shows, showy gardens, picking and bedding.
 Division 5 Triandrus daffodil - ThaliaDivision 5 – TriandrusUsually more than one flower to a stem, head drooping, perianth segments often reflexed and of silky texture.Fuchia-like blooms often with a fruity fragrance; great in containers.
Division 6 Cyclamineus daffodil - ItzimDivision 6 – CyclamineusOne flower to a stem, perianth significantly reflexed and corona straight and narrow. Some exceptions exist.With their faces looking like they are standing in front of a fan, they look & perform wonderfully in pots & are terrific for forcing; seem to be more tolerant to partial shade moisture as a group.
Division 7 Jonquilla daffodil - CurlewDivision 7 – JonquillaUsually several flower heads to a stem, flowers usually fragrant, stem is round in cross-section and foliage is often rush like.Foliage is often reed-like or at least very narrow & dark green. Most like the hot baking summer sun. Better in southern gardens but some are adaptable in cooler climates. Sweetly fragrant. Most are great in pots.
Division 8 Ttazetta daffodil - AvalancheDivision 8 – TazettaUsually three to twenty flowers to a stout stem, sweet scented and very short cupped. Perianth segments rounded and often somewhat crinkled.Excellent perennialzers with a musky, sweet fragrance; good for Southern gardens & forcing.
Division 9 Poeticus daffodil - ActeaDivision 9 – PoeticusUsually one flower to a stem. White petals sometimes stained with the corona color at the base, small flat cup edged with red.Excellent perennials with a spicy fragrance, dogwood-like blooms; good for picking.
Division 10 Bulbocodium daffodil - Julia-JaneDivision 10 – Bulbocodium HybridsUsually one flower to a stem. Perianth segments insignificant compared with Corona.Cultivars in this division are offspring of the species bulbocodium conspicuus, often referred to as ‘Hoop Petticoat’.
 Division 11a Split corona collar daffodil - CassataDivision 11 – Split CoronaCorona split – usually more than half its length.A division where the cup of the daffodil is split into segments & spreads back against the petals. Sometimes the cup is smooth, often it’s frilly & many other times it’s in between.11a) Collar Daffodils Split-corona daffodils with the corona segments opposite the perianth segments; the corona segments usually in two whorls of three11b) Papillon DaffodilsSplit-corona daffodils with the corona segments alternate to the perianth segments; the corona segments usually in a single whorl of sixColoration of the corona often appears in sunburst-like streaks.
 Division 12 Other daffodils - Tete-a-tete Division 12 – Other CultivarsDaffodils not falling into any of the previous categories.
Division 13 Only botanical name daffodil: -x-odorus-flore-plenoDivision 13 – Species All species and reputedly wild forms.Ones that are referred to as species daffodils & most of which are Heirloom & suitable for restoration gardening from 1700 on.

All photos are from the Brent and Becky’s 2013 Fall Catalog.

Disclosure: We receive NO financial or other consideration from either of these organizations for linking to their websites.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.. Either read their print catalog or view their digital catalog online.

 American Daffodil Society. Visit and learn from their information filled website.


Hellebore Botany – Which Stage is Acceptable For Flower Show Judging

The question was posed as to why some Hellebore’s can be entered into Flower Show judging and others are rejected. Here’s the long answer.

Understanding the botany of the Hellebore will help explain the answer to the Flower Show suitability.

The attraction and colors of the Hellebore, Figure #1, are not supplied by petals but rather sepals. Petals are usually lost after a flower is fertilized but sepals and bracts don’t suffer the same fate and are persistent

Botany of a Hellebore

Fig. 1. Diagram of the botanical parts of a Hellebore flower. Photo courtesy of Monica Tehomolic.

Sepals (A) normally form outside of petals as a protection and support of the bud and flower. There are usually 5 sepals, two outer, two inner and one both. A group of sepals is called a calyx.

The stamens (B) are the male part of the flower and are made up of 2 parts, the long white filament and the anther that sits on top holding the pollen. There can be up to 150 stamens per flower.

The stamens surround the female part of the flower, the carpel (C). Fertilization of the carpels can be by insects, bees or wind.

Replacing the petal in the case of Hellebores are small nectaries (D) that sit at the base of the sepals and provide food for pollinators. They don’t last very long and are shed at the same time as the stamens when the carpels swell with what will become seeds.

Fertilized Hellebores can seem attractive for quite a long time since the sepals are persistent and the swollen carpels (E) are distinctive. The sepals will tend to loose their color vibrancy over time however.

Because the Hellebore in Figure #2 is a fertilized flower, even though the sepals still appear fresh, this is not the stage when it is an acceptable specimen in a formal Flower Show submission.

So, the short answer to the question of whether the Hellebore in Figure #2 is acceptable for Flower Show judging is: No, since the center is a fertilized seed pod.

Hellebore botany

Fig. 2. Fertilized Hellebore. Photo courtesy of Monica Tehomolic


The Pause That Refreshes – Gardening in The Winter

My thermostat read 10° last night so when it’s that cold I tend to warm myself by planning what I will be doing this coming year in my garden. It is the calm before the storm.

I like to read so with a hot cup of coffee and sometimes a blanket over my lap I settle down to a good book of how others tend their gardens seeking inspiration and camaraderie. I read new books but often I like to reread those of old friends I have in my library. Christopher Lloyd’s “The Well-Tempered Garden” is a perennial (hee hee) favorite. Other authors are: Dominique Browning, Joe Eck, Nancy Goodwin, Allen Lacy, Fred McGourty, Henry Mitchell and Vita Sackville-West.

For more technical information and garden planning I read Michael Dirr for woody plants and Allan Armitage for perennials. If you’d like to replant a garden with a more natural look I read the work of Piet Oudolf, the Dutch plantsman.

Reading Garden Blogs online are a path to many hours spent without realizing that spring is around the corner or dinner needs planning. I read a few regularly.

Garden Rant is written by 5 different authors and covers amazing amounts of gardening, history and controversy.

Try them at:

To give myself some ideas and recipes, I always turn to my favorite gardening blog written by Margaret Roach, A Way To Garden. Formerly a Newsday garden writer and the garden editor for Martha Stewart Living, Margaret has, among other wonderful advice, a monthly chore list, which is written for where she lives and gardens in zone 5. This is colder and therefore sometimes slightly later than we are here in our toasty zone 7.

You can find this gem at

I was going to list all the various sources for gardening catalogs that will take over your budget and common sense but I’ll just post here Margaret Roach’s resource page, which says it all.

Sit down, take a deep breath, rest, relax and learn, since before you know it we’ll be out digging holes again!