The Late Season Garden

Planting for Butterflies

Fragrant Gardens

Magnolia Mania

Spring Sojourn

The Late Season Garden


"Autumn in felted slipper shuffles on, Muted yet fiery, - Autumn’s character."    Vita Sackville-West


I love the late season garden. It is full of dynamic contrasts – melding colorful late blooms, maturing fruit, fiery foliage and the plumes of ornamental grasses. The inertia of the season is compelling, and with a little preparation a gardener can sit back and leisurely enjoy the garden fireworks. After a spring and summer of planting, watering and weeding, the fuse is lit.


The display gardens at the Nursery are full of planting ideas that not only sustain the season of bloom but also offer winter structure and an early spring burst of color. September and early October is one of my favorite seasons in these gardens. It is also the best time to plan and plant your own garden for a fall fanfare and more. You can get a start on this late season spelndour by planting some favorite late summer bloomer in the spring.


Colorful foliage is the place to start when planning your late season garden. This is not limited to the fiery colors of turning autumn leaves. There are many herbaceous perennials and woody plants that offer sensational foliage color throughout the season into the fall.


Chartreuse foliage keeps the garden fresh, it is the color of emerging spring leaves. The yellow-green foliage of Spiraea japonica ‘Mini Gold’ defies the wear of summer heat and is still a fresh faced companion in late September with Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome.’


Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ is my favorite chartreuse-leaved shrub. Its fine textured leaves turn orange in October. ‘Ogon’ provides an excellent background for black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’), Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and red daylilies. Our recently introduced Hemerocallis ‘Seventh Inning Stretch’ is a vibrant red, late blooming knockout.


The cutleaf form of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’) turns to flaming oranges and reds in October. The new cultivar ‘Tiger Eyes’ sports showy chartreuse, ferny leaves on red stem all summer long before turnings into an inferno of fall color. Combine Rhus ‘Tiger Eyes’ with Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), the blue leaves of Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blues’, and a five foot tall, red blooming daylily, Hemerocallis ‘Challenger’ Add an even more statuesque Aster tataricus for a back of the border bonfire.


Violet-blue flowers and glaucus-blue foliage intensifies the flaming heat radiating as red, yellow and orange. The blue flowers of Caryopteris 'Longwood Blue' add to the heat. The flowers are produced on new wood starting in July and running through September. Combine Caryopteris with the reddish leaves and orange hips of Rosa glauca, the maroon foliage of purple smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) and Weigela ‘Midnight Wine’, stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida), Rudbeckia triloba and a foreground of Aster ‘Purple Dome,’ Yucca ‘Golden Sword’ and Sedum ‘Rosy Glow.’


Ninebark (Physocarpus) is a very hardy, drought resistant, native shrub that offers great versatility in a mixed border. Prune back hard in the spring, to easily control its height as a background for perennials flowers. The maroon leaves of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ creates a dusky background and an opportunity to add sparks of color. Hemerocallis ‘August Flame’ and the late season rebloom of Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’ do the trick.


The dark leaves of ‘Diablo’ also accentuate the large, conical white panicles of late blooming hydrangea. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ blooms on new wood, so it is easy to control its height with early spring pruning. The flowers age to a silvery pink in October. Lespedeza thunbergii, bush clover, is a fantastic late blooming shrub that is drought tolerant. Lespedeza blooms in late September and October in a cascading fountain of pink flowers. Plant Lespedeza in front of either Caryopteris 'Longwood Blue' or Physocarpus ‘Summer Wine.’


Colorful fruits add another dimension to the late season garden. One of my favorites is Aronia arbutifolia, red chokeberry. Aronia is a hardy native shrub that is tolerant of dry soils in full sun as well as moist soils in partial shade. The white spring flowers mature into clusters of red fruit that last all winter. Aronia’s fall foliage turns a blazing red. Aronia melanocarpa is a black-fruited species. Aronias are a beautiful companion to ornamental grasses. The black fruit are especially showy next to the reddish stems and leaves of Schizachyrium 'Praire Blues' and the yellow umbels of Patrinia scabioifolia. Patrinia’s yellow umbel flower structure holds its color after the flower petals drop. The leaves also turn red, adding a heightened contrast to yellow.


The late season garden, though brilliant with colorful flowers, fruit and foliage is also bittersweet. The autumn season comes silently, ‘in felt slippers shuffles on’. What is inevitable is sharp cutting frost. Gardeners are ever mindful of the frosts and full moons.


In Vita Sackville-West poetry we are reminded that the beauty of the garden does not end with the change of the seasons. "So Autumn’s not the end, not the last rung of any ladder in the yearly climb, When that is deathly old which once was young, Since time’s no ladder but a constant wheel."


Warren Leach


Caryopteris 'Longwood Blue'

Patrinia scabiosifolia


Anemone 'Robutissima' and Kale

Aster 'Purple Dome', Heucherella 'Autumn Bride', Sedum

and Golden Alpine Strawberries


Allium 'Ozawa'

Cimicifuga 'Hillside Black Beauty' and Brunnera


Aster tataricus and Miscanthis grass

Aster 'October Skies and Ilex verticilata


Lespedezia 'Gilbraltar

Hydrangea 'Tardiva'


Heptacodium miconoides

Heptacodium miconoides


Hydrangea 'Snowflake'

Aronia arbutifolia and Miscanthus grass


Calicarpa 'Early Amethyst'

Hemerocallis 'Seventh Inning Stretch'



Planting for Butterflies


To attract butterflies to your garden, you must first provide the nectar plants that nourish adult butterflies. Once the butterflies have found your garden they are likely to stay and reproduce, if their other basic needs of water, sun, shelter and reproductive areas can also be met.

Nectar Plants


Butterflies can not hover very long and need a place to land. They prefer composites (daisy-like flowers), panicles (large clusters of blooms on a stem), and umbels (flat topped flowers that originate from a single apex). These plants provide a landing pad for the butterflies and easy access to the nectar.

When given the choice, butterflies prefer to visit stands of flowers with strong colors such as orange, yellow and purple. They view the environment through polarized light in the ultraviolet range. The UV light enables them to see hidden ultraviolet patterns on the petals which guide them to the heart of the nectar source. In addition to color and shape, the fragrance of the flowers is what really draws the butterflies to the garden. Flowers with the heaviest perfume are most appealing to the butterflies sensitive sense of smell. Highly hybridized and double flowers do not usually provide a good source of nectar.


Although some butterfly species are attracted to a wide range of nectar sources, others express definite preferences in size, shape, or color of flowers. A wide variety of food plants will give the greatest diversity of visitors. Try staggering wild and cultivated plants, as well as blooming times of the day and year. Groups of the same plants will be easier for butterflies to see than singly planted flowers.


Reproductive Areas


Having attracted adult butterflies to your garden, you can prolong their stay by encouraging them to mate and lay eggs. The larva and adult stages of butterflies will require different food sources. Female butterflies are much more selective of the plants on which they will lay eggs than they are of nectar plants. Only certain specific plants contain the chemical constituents needed to nurture their caterpillars and fuel the metamorphosis from caterpillar to adult butterfly.


Larval Host Plants:


Providing the right host plant in your garden is the most important step in creating a butterfly garden. It is important to plant a large number of host plants in order to provide adequate food for the caterpillars. They will perish if there is not enough available. In addition to food, the host plants provide shelter for all stages of the butterflies life cycle. Trees and shrubs such as aspen, dogwood, oak, elm, sassafras, cherry, hawthorn, poplar, blueberry, spicebush, viburnum and willow offer a good source of food for the larva. Plant globe thistle; hollyhocks; beans; lupine; pipevine; snapdragon; yarrow; members of the cabbage family, and carrot relatives, such as parsley and dill. Wildflowers such as milkweed, butterfly weed, thistle, nettle, violet, plantain, asters, dock, clover, turtlehead, pearly everlasting, mustard, Queen Anne's lace, vetch, meadowsweet and grasses are also important larval sources.


When a caterpillar becomes fully grown, it pupates and begins its magical transformation, or metamorphosis, into an adult butterfly. When it emerges, days or even months later, you will want to have its favorite nectar food available. Many species travel only a few hundred yards from where they hatch. In addition to planting flowers for butterflies, try to leave an unkempt area, such as a weed patch or meadow, to attract new species. This will provide food sources for both larva and adults.




Like all living creatures, butterflies require water. Place small stones in birdbaths to give them a place to land and sip water, or add moist gravel in a driveway or sunken container. Some species enjoy mud puddles where they will “'puddle” individually or in groups. Permanent puddles are easy to make by burying a bucket to the rim, filling it with gravel or sand, and pouring in liquids such as stale beer, sweet drinks or water. Overripe fruit, allowed to sit for a few days, is a very attractive substance (to them) as well.




All insects are cold-blooded and cannot internally regulate their body temperature. Butterflies will readily bask in the sun when it is warm out, but few are seen on cloudy days. It is a good idea to leave open areas in the yard for butterflies to sun themselves, as well as partly shady areas like trees or shrubs, so they can hide when it's cloudy or cool off if it is very hot.




Provide shelter to protect butterflies from extremes in temperature, rain, storms, predators and locations for roosting. Shrubs, thickets, rock walls and wood piles provide shelter and hiding places. They also offer nooks and crannies for over-wintering caterpillars or adults.




To attract moths to the garden, night blooming varieties are necessary. The following are extremely fragrant and are readily available; night blooming jasmine, four o' clocks and nicotiana. The best time to look for moths is right around dusk. Many of these flowers are white and reflect the disappearing sun and the emerging moonlight.





Do not use any pesticides, even organic pesticides, in the garden. The use of beneficial insects is the most effective way to control pest problems. Avoid Bacillus thuringiensis. If caterpillar overpopulation becomes a problem, the larvae can be carefully gathered and transferred to a plant of the same kind or to a wild plant.


Painted Lady on Scabiosa

Red Admiral on Boltonia


Hummingbird Clearwing Moth on Phlox

Easter Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush


Honey Bee and American Lady on Sedum

Great Spangled Frittilary on Milkweed


Monarch on Butterfly Weed

Clouded Sulfur on Clover


Pink Spotted Hawk Moth on Moonflower

Black Swallowtail on Zinnia



Fragrant Gardens


"To make a great garden, one must have a great idea or a great opportunity; ... But it is possible to introduce a touch of imaginative beauty into almost any garden by finding the most perfect form for one of its features, or by giving expression to the soul of some particular flower ."


Sir George Sitwell examines the emotions of beauty in his book On the Making of Gardens, recently reprinted by Godine Press. This compilation of reflective wisdom, composed while exploring gardens in Italy nearly one hundred years ago, is still quire applicable to garden making today.


What quality expresses the "soul of a flower" more than its sweet scent? This ethereal quality of fragrance is an extra dimension beyond the tangible spatial constants within which we define our garden beds and borders. "Sweet scents are the swift vehicles of still sweeter thoughts, And nurse and mellow the dull memory, That would let drop without them her best stores." (Savage Landor)


The strongest stimulus to trigger a memory in a stream-of-consciousness style, is most likely that of a familiar scent. My own memories are indeed roused by smells. The scent of lilac (Syringa vulgaris), mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius), daylilies like Hemerocallis citrina, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) and rugosa roses recall my most distant childhood memories of my mother’s garden. The lilacs were the common ones, familiar throughout rural Maine - often found memorializing an ancient foundation hole where a house once stood. I remember making a cave-like hideaway in the center of the lilac thicket of suckering stems and trunks. The sweetness of the lilac flowers are so intoxicating that they still induce me to spontaneously bury my nose in their flower heads and inhale deeply.


The mock orange bloomed after the lilacs, and the semi-double white flowers were even more fragrant than the lilac. I now recognize this exotic scent to be orange blossoms (Citrus). The neighbor’s had a fully double variety that wasn’t nearly as sweet.


Hemerocallis citrina was my first encounter with the daylily. It's tall scapes of yellow flowers also smelled like citrus blossoms. Lily-of- the-valley created a carpet at the north end of the house where asparagus also grew. The tall ferny asparagus foliage was ornamental and a nice addition to bouquets. Although, we cultivated extensive vegetable gardens, we didn’t eat asparagus. I discovered the taste of asparagus as an adult.

Fragrant and thorny roses grew as large spreading masses. A semi-double magenta-rose variety bloomed intermittently throughout the summer. The fragrance of rugosa roses transports me to the town of Castine on Penobscot Bay, where perfumed white rugosa roses grew.


Making a garden is a very personal expression. Select plants for your garden that have both fragrant flowers and fragrant foliage to enhance the experiences of everyone who comes near. Entry gardens are a logical location for fragrant plantings, whether sweet flowers or aromatic herbal foliage. Lilacs have been relegated by some horticultural authors to the second rate list, citing only one short season of attraction and foliage prone to mildew disfigurement. However, you don’t have to look long for confirmation of their popularity in New England gardens. This attests to the emotional pleasure that fragrant lilacs give us. We have to have lilacs, so select cultivars that have attractive mildew resistant foliage, like ‘Beauty of Moscow’ with huge fragrant white trusses with a hint of pink.


Syringa meyeri 'Palibin’and Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ are dwarf varieties that can be kept in the four to six foot height range, bloom slightly later than common lilac and have attractive fall foliage color. ‘Palibin’ and Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ are dwarf varieties that can be kept in the four to six foot height range, bloom slightly later than common lilac and have attractive fall foliage color.


The Roseshell azalea (Rhododendron priniphyllum) has flowers that are sweetly clove scented. 'Marie Hoffman' is an exceptional large-flowered cultivar in pink that is considered to be the best form of the species. September blooming Heptacodium miconioides offers a precious fall flourish of fragrance.


If a rose isn’t fragrant, why bother. The sweet scented and single flowered native Rosa palustris is not a perpetual bloomer, but has attractive hips and lustrous red fall foliage. Rosa rugosa blooms continuously throughout the summer. I like 'Snow Pavement' a semi double, with white flowers that have a pink tinge.


There are volumes of botanical references listing many sweet scented perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs. Part of the pleasure found in fragrance is its personal association. For instance, to me Astilbe ‘Peach Blossom’ smells like childhood memories of opening packets of grape Kool-aid!

Two disparate fragrant foliage plants, the tropical, citrus-scented lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) and the hardy, native, pungently aromatic sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) are both scents reminiscent to me of the coast of Maine. Sweet fern and bayberry grow in poor dry cracks in rocks. Their scent, combined with the salt air, the fir and spruce forests are the essence of Mt. Desert Island. I remember a large, venerable lemon verbena growing in an stately Italian terra cotta pot at Thuja Gardens in Northeast Harbor. The lemon scent of the leaves was so intoxicating that you compulsively rubbed the leaves and smelled your fingers.


We can learn from George Sitwell’s account of absorbing the essence of gardens, discerning their design components and savoring the emotional experience to be translated in ones own garden. To make a great garden, one must have a great idea, a great opportunity, a measure of imagination and a keen nose.


Warren Leach


Rhododendron priniphyllum 'Marie Hoffman'

Rhododendron priniphyllum 'Marie Hoffman'


Hemerocallis citrina

Fletcher enjoys the sweet scent of the daylily flowers of Hemerocallis citrina


Magnolia virginiana 'Henry Hicks'

Cimicifuga ramosa 'Brunette'



Heptocodium miconioides



Lavender 'Phenomenal'




Tough But Terrific


Those gardeners who collect plants are a discriminating and enthusiastic bunch. We want, lust after, and simply must have new hybrids, obscure native or exotic perennials from around the world. Though it is our badge of horticultural honor to successfully cultivate and grow the rare, unusual and tender; we all harbor a secret. It is a drawer full of plant labels and records of the many perennials that are no longer alive in our gardens. This process of winnowing out poor performers and too finicky plants is an invaluable though sometimes sad lesson. Chalk it up to the education of a gardener.


Regardless of size, style or the elaborateness of the herbaceous border, the most discriminating of gardeners relies on a backbone structure of tough but terrific perennials. We’ve all seen daylilies or peonies memorializing a long abandoned garden site. Hosta, epimedium and polygonatum are relics to more shady plots. The list of these hardy stalwart perennials is not small. I refer to Robert Hebb’s criteria from Low Maintenance Perennials as a benchmark; they are attractive foliage, study stems, disease resistance, longevity and the infrequent need for dividing.


Foliage and form are as important as season of bloom in the gardens that I design. Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana) is a tough native that can’t be beat for providing good looking bones in a border. True to its name, it blooms with blue star- shaped flowers in early June, but its best asset is its foliage. Amsonia withstands the driest of conditions in full sun or partial shade, remaining green and unblemished. In late September and October it turns a spectacular clear yellow. Amsonia is a great addition to the daylily-daffodil duo. Add Geranium ‘Rozanne’ for continued purple blooms accented by Amsonia’s yellow fall foliage.


The bigroot geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) is another tough long-lasting perennial. It is densely bushy with round lobed leaves and spreads by creeping rhizomes that withstand root competition from dry shade to sun. In the foreground of a sunny border combine Geranium macrorrhizum with Sedum ‘Brilliant,’ Eryngium planum (Sea Holly), one of the beard's tongues such as Penstemon ‘Prairie Dusk’ or 'Husker Red' and Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns' or May May' - two of our favorites for rebloom.


The deep growing, fleshy roots of false indigo (Baptisia australis) give this prairie native longevity and tolerance from drought. Spikes of violet-blue flowers mature into black seedpods above glaucus-green foliage giving Baptisia a long season of beauty. In a sunny location it grows to shrub-like proportions, three feet tall. Underplant with the Ornamental Onion Allium senescens subsp. montanum for a long season of bloom. I have also planted Baptisia as a low ‘hedge’ under-planted with daffodils and a dark red leaved coral bell such as Heuchera 'Black Bird' or ‘Obsidian’


Once established with thick woody roots, moisture loving Cimicifuga racemosa (snakeroot), is very tolerant of dry shade and summer droughts. The six-foot high, white wands blooming in July dance in the shadow of dogwoods. The Asian species, Cimicifuga simplex blooms much later in September with sweetly fragrant flower spikes. The cultivar ‘Brunette’ has maroon foliage.


Tough and terrific perennials defines what we grow in the gardens and offer for sale at Tranquil Lake Nursery. Come and explore.


Warren Leach


Amsonia tabernaemontana 'Salicifolia' (Bluestar)

Eryngium planum (Sea Holly)


Allium senescens subsp. montanum

(Ornamental Onion)

Eryngium planum (Sea Holly) flowers


Sedum spectabile 'Brilliant'

Sedum spectabile 'Brilliant' flowers


Sedum 'Brilliant', Geranium macrorrhizum and Eryngium planum

Cimicifuga ramosa 'Pink Spike'


Polygonatum odoratum (Soloman's Seal)

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'


Hemerocallis 'May May''

Hemerocallis ' Happy Returns'


Hosta in the gardens at Tranquil Lake Nursery

Hosta by the nursery pond




Magnolia Mania



Magnolias are blooming! Though some of the early blooming species were damaged by the recent extreme cold snap, our Magnolia stellata ‘Waterlily’ in the nursery display garden is continuing to open with a flurry of fragrant flowers. Magnolias are part of the chorus that heralds a colorful, fragrant and prolific gardening season.


E. H. “Chinese” Wilson, horticulturist, prolific plant explorer and successor of Charles S. Sargent as Director of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston proclaimed of Magnolia: "Aristocrats of ancient lineage, possessed of many superlative qualities are the magnolias. They have the largest flowers and largest individual leaves of any hardy group of trees. No other genus of hardy and half-hardy trees and shrubs can boast so many excellences ... Their free-flowering character and great beauty of blossom and foliage are equalled by the ease with which they may be cultivated."


If visual memories are the most deep-felt of our five senses, Magnolias are strongly imprinted in my horticultural intuitiveness. Focused on gardening by the age of six, I savored many plants and gardens, from those of my mother, great aunt and neighbors to the imposing estates on the coast of Maine. However, I distinctly remember seeing my first Magnolia when I was thirteen. We were visiting my older brother at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. It was a saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) and so exotic, like a tree full of tulips! Years later, at the University of Maine campus in Orono, I would discover more Magnolias. Perhaps the most memorable for its giant two foot long leaves was the umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) growing near the greenhouses by Deering Hall. Magnolia macrophylla subsp. ashei sports incredible, tropical sized leaves three feet long!


In later years, when I traveled south to explore gardens in Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, it was the magnificent glossy evergreen foliage of Magnolia grandiflora that awed me. Nineteenth century American artist Martin Johnson Heade captured the essence of this 'elegant aristocrat' on canvas. Northern gardeners with  "Zonal Envy" can grow the cultivar 'Bracken Brown Beauty' in a niche micro-climate. This iconic southern magnolia is growing in a garden near Worcester, MA.


The Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) enamored early Seventeenth Century British plant enthusiasts. It has an extensive native range from the town of Magnolia, Massachusetts on Cape Ann south to Florida. Its glossy white, sweetly scented flowers bloom in June. I am especially fond of the hardy evergreen forms of Magnolia virginiana var. australis. The evergreen cultivar 'Henry Hicks', selected by the Scott Arboretum, is outstanding year-round. The Arnold Arboretum's collection includes several other evergreen form such as 'Milton'.  


Greeting gardeners near the entrance to the Arnold Arboretum is the Yellow blooming Magnolia ‘Elizabeth' hybrid child of North American Magnolia accuminata and the Asian Magnolia denudata. It is perhaps the most recognized yellow flowering magnolia. A stunning specimen can be experienced near the entrance to the Arnold Arboretum. The Magnolia collection at the Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore, PA is well worth a visit. One of my favorites is Magnolia denudata 'Swarthmore Sentinel', a stunning upright form dressed in white flowers.


Boston boasts spectacular displays of Magnolias, from The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in Jamaica Plain to Commonwealth Avenue. Fifty three years ago, in 1963, civic activist Laura Dwight launched a community-wide drive to beautify the Back Bay. She recruited a group of volunteers, who planted the first saucer magnolias (Magnolia soulangeana) and Star Magnolias (Magnolia stellata) along Commonwealth Avenue. In 1995, The Garden Club of the Back Bay oversaw a second planting of more than forty Magnolia x ‘Leonard Messel’ -- adding to the spectacular spring display.


A few years ago, I moved a mature, thirty year old Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) from a client's old house to a new house and garden in Woodstock, Connecticut. We dug an eight foot diameter root ball! Magnolia stellata's fragrant white flowers and silvery grey bark and graceful form anchor the entrance garden, well worth the effort.


Its been forty six years since my thrill of seeing a 'tree full of tulips' and I am not yet sated. Explore the many Magnolias at Tranquil Lake Nursery, I'm sure they will captivate you too.

by Warren Leach, Landscape Horticulturist and owner of Tranquil Lake Nursery, Rehoboth, MA.


Magnolia stellata 'Waterlily'

Magnolia 'Henry Hicks'


Magnolia 'Elizabeth'

Magnolia 'March Till Frost'


Magnolia 'Jane'

Magnolia 'Bracken Brown Beauty'


Magnolia 'Judy Zuk'

Magnolia 'Peachy'


Magnolia 'Golden Girl'

Magnolia soulangeana 'Rustica Rubra'








 We know spring weather and bloom is just around the corner because we experienced it last weekend


Just one week ago we were inhaling the sweet scent of lilacs in bloom, no April fools! At the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College outside Philadelphia the Korean early lilac (Syringa oblata var. dilatata) was blooming precociously early, along with Tree Peonies and Camellias (we especially liked a red one called 'April Tryst').


On the first of April we visited several renown gardens in Pennsylvania, while delivering plants to a student at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. It was a spring spectacular, a riot of colorful spring flowers - Magnolias, Cherries, Rhododendrons, Daphne genkwa the lilac daphne, hellebores, and spring ephemerals such as bloodroot, hepatica and millions of bulbs. At Longwood Gardens, we were awed by an extensive display of bulbs under an arboretum of trees. The ground was illuminated in chrome yellow and blue like a canvas undulating over acres. The blanket of color was an extreme planting of many hundreds of thousands of Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ accompanied by the blue of Chionodoxa and Scilla.

We also visited Chanticleer, a garden that may be the zenith of artistic horticultural expression in the northeast. My head is still spinning. We have visited Chanticleer many times in late summer and fall. This was our first spring visit, and it was an even more magical experience of exuberant bloom. One favorite image was an ephemeral pattern of pink cherry blossom petals settled into the grooved swirls of raked gravel in the circular entry garden. Common plants are elevated to innovative artistic levels. Lettuces were bedded out as early garden fillers and Sedum ‘Angelina’ topped a planted stone banister flanking garden steps. A simple plant combination take-away was Euphorbia myrsinites, grape hyacinths, orange species tulips and Carex comans ‘Bronze’ in a dry scree garden.


The recent unruly weather, dominated by snow and cold, has been more of psychological set back than a serious interruption to the progression of spring here in southeastern Massachusetts. The flowers of star magnolias (Magnolia stellata) suffered the most, though other Magnolias species and cultivars are yet to bloom. The rain is welcome, nourishing the garden, we certainly don’t want a repeat of last spring’s drought.

At Tranquil Lake Nursery we are passionate about plants and making gardens. We experience gardens through a medley of all five senses and more, emotionally and through our soul. Gardens are more than the sum of their parts.

I dare say that our daylily fields in full bloom in July are their own unrivaled display. Join us at our garden workshops this spring, or just visit and wander through the gardens.

by Warren Leach, Landscape Horticulturist and owner of Tranquil Lake Nursery, Rehoboth, MA.


Millions of Narcissus 'Tete a Tete' with Scilla and Chionodoxa at Longwood Gardens on April 1.

At Longwood Gardens outside Philadelphia the woods were ablaze with yellow daffodils (Narcissus 'Tete a Tete')


Rhododendron 'Milestone' blooming at Swarthmore College on April 2. Introduced by Weston Nursery in Massachusetts.

The Korean early lilac (Syringa oblata var. dilatata) lived up to its name, blooming April 2 on the Swarthmore Campus.


Magnolia 'Golden Girl' at Swarthmore College.

Magnolia soulangeana 'Rustica Rubra' blooming at Swarthmore College on April 2.


Cherry blossoms produced a beautiful design adorning a raked gravel entrance.

Fallen cherry blossoms settled into the raked gravel at the entrance to the Main House at Chanticleer


Euphorbia myrsinites, Carex comans 'Bronze' with species tulips and grape hyacinths.

At Chanticleer, lettuces of various colors were bedded out as an early spring filler in the gardens and containers.


Sedum 'Angelina' topping a stone balustrade made a bright early spring planting at Chanticleer.

Camelia ‘April Tryst’ in full bloom at Swarthmore.


Stachyurus praecox 'Rubriflorus' with long chains of rosy blossoms.

Magnolias and Cherries were in full glorious bloom throughout the Philadelphia Area.


Daphne genkwa, the lilac daphne.

Cercis chinesis ‘Don Egolf’, a Chinese Redbud


Japanese Spicebush in Bloom in the woodlands at Chanticleer (Lindera obtusiloba)

The Hooped Petticoat Daffodil at Longwood Gardens (Narcissus bulbocodium var. conspicuus)


For more than thirty years, Tranquil Lake Nursery has been offering unique Garden Design and Installation Services designed by Warren Leach. Review of our design services with a link to a gallery of some of our landscapes and gardens. Warren is also available for consultation at your home. Read details.

45 River Street Rehoboth, Massachusetts 02769-1395Phone: 508-252-4002 Fax: 508-252-4740 or send an e-mail to