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In the Gardens Blog

Boltonia 'Jim Crockett'

Most people walking out of the north side of the Education Building at Elm Bank can be forgiven if they don?t realize they?re in one of MassHort?s gardens. It?s more of a semi-formal picnic area; a shady place to sit with a sandwich and something cold to drink on a warm summer day. It?s only when you stop to read the inscriptions on the granite benches that you realize you?re in the Jim Crockett Memorial Garden. Dedicated in the summer of 2005, it is the kind of place that Crockett, best remembered as the first host of the PBS series, ?The Victory Garden?, would appreciate and comment kindly upon.

Within the Crockett Garden is another tribute to a man who did much to re-acquaint America with its gardening heritage. Boltonia Jim Crockett was developed at the University of Massachusetts and it is planted almost as a hedge along the inner, herringbone path. You can?t miss the profusion of inch-wide lavender blooms with yellow centers. They?ll be in their glory for much of the summer.
Boltonia Jim Crockett
Boltonia latisquama, usually called ?false aster?, is a tall perennial. It grows wild in the Eastern U.S., usually in wet meadows and stream beds. Tall, in this case, means six feet. In its native habitat it?s a gawky thing with long, grayish-green leaves and small, white daisy-like flowers. The bloom time is generally late summer. Home gardeners generally avoid un-hybridized version of the plant because of its tendency to ?flop? if it isn?t well watered and its propensity to mildew as the season progresses.

Eryngium 'Big Blue'

Eryngium Big BlueIn the world of gardening, it sometimes seems as though everyone wants every plant to make a ‘statement’. Homeowners want hostas with chartreuse leaves three feet across. Landscapers specify exotic Ligularia with stems as black as night and floral sprays as bright as the noon-day sun.

Why does every ‘statement’ need to have an exclamation point? Whatever became of the plant that draws your eye not with unabashed size contrasts, but with subtlety?

Eryngium, better known as ‘sea holly’ is one such plant. A native of European mountainous regions and the Balkan peninsula, you’ll find it in dry, sunny gardens where it is most noticeable for its pincushion-type flowers and spiky foliage. This is not your cute, fuzzy plant. While it won’t draw blood if you touch it, ‘pincushion’ is an apt description of the flower’s center. Brush by one and you’ll know you’ve done so. Older varieties of Eryngium tend toward the blue-gray. With its dark green leaves, the plant can seem almost monochromatic.

Ageratum houstonianum 'Patina Delft'


Ageratum 'Delft' Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ageratum. It’s got a kind of bluish-purple fuzzy flower and you buy it in six-packs at Home Depot for two bucks and plug it in where something died or got eaten by bugs. Its best attribute is that the flowers seem to last forever. Next plant.

Then, you see Ageratum ‘Patina Delft’ and you stop dead in your tracks and say, ‘wow, where did that come from?’

The aforementioned Ageratum (‘Blue Jay’ and “Blue Ribbon’ for example) is a lowest-common-denominator kind of plant. It flowers reliably and seems immune to both neglect and over-attention. It seeds prolifically and the seeds germinate in just five days. As such, it is sold widely and, to be charitable, is over-used.

Helianthemum 'Hartswood Ruby'

Joe Kunkel and Hartswood RubyThere’s a great deal of color in the Bressingham Garden this month. Yellow. Pink. Check. Check. Blue. Check. Lavender. Check. But how about red? Really, really, red?


It’s there in the form of a wonderful, low mounding group of plants by the name Helianthemum ‘Hartswood Ruby’. And, remarkably, it’s getting redder by the day. It’s also remarkable that it’s there at all.

Let’s start with the name. ‘Helianthemum’ sounds like one of those exotic crossbreeds developed in the past few years. In point of fact, the genus (pronounced (hee-lee-AN-thee-mum), goes back to 1754 and there are some 650 cultivars on record. ‘Hartswood Ruby’, though, dates only to 2007 when Blooms of Bressingham introduced it to the world. It was planted that same year in the Bressingham Garden at Elm Bank.

Help us track down the killer beetles

An important message from the USDA and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Our region’s trees are under attack. Help us track down the killer beetles.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) beetle and Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) have destroyed millions of trees throughout the United States. The USDA and MassHort are partnering to ask MassHort members to participate in the Volunteer EAB/ALB Forest Pest Survey. We need your help to determine if these damaging forest pests are in communities in and around Boston.

The EAB and ALB most likely arrived in the United States inside solid wood packing material from Asia. Since their discovery, infestations of ALB have been reported in four states and infestations of EAB in 13 states. In 2008, an infestation was found in central Worcester County. As widely reported, five trees near the Arnold Arboretum were found last week to have ALBs.

Be an ace beetle detective. Start searching today.

You can help us stop the spread of the beetles — and the devastation to our forests, parks and neighborhoods — by searching your community for signs of both beetles. Just follow these simple steps:

1. Review the attached fact sheets to become familiar with the EAB and ALB as well as signs of damage. Take the fact sheets for reference when you search.

Emerald Ash Borer Fact Sheet
Asian Longhorned Beetle Fact Sheet

2. Locate host trees in your search area. The EAB lives in ash trees and the ALB lives in hardwood trees, particularly maple, birch, horsechestnut, willow and elm. Carefully examine each tree for signs of infestation. Take notes on the following:

  • Area searched.
  • Types of trees examined.
  • Descriptions of any beetles or signs of infestation detected. It is also helpful to take pictures of the insects or damage to your trees.

3. Report both positive and negative sightings online at Negative sightings help confirm that the beetles were not found in your area. Make sure you indicate your organization’s name on the online reporting form.

Help MassHort’s members become top-ranked beetle detectives., will rank participating organizations based on the reports their members submit. If you know other people who would like to help protect our trees, forward this email to them and ask them to report their findings as an individual.

Thanks in advance for helping protect America’s trees!

Michael Opton
Director of Marketing and Membership
Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Patricia M. Douglass
State Plant Health Director
USDA/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Kenneth Gooch
Director of Forest Health
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation

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Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

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