Maui Buttercup, Black Brass Buttons, and Soaking Up Blood


My permaculture group visited Cider Hill Garden & Gallery in Windsor, VT, last October and again about ten days ago, in early June. It’s a small garden, owned by Sarah and Gary Milek, which sells mainly perennials and focuses on daylilies, peonies, hosta, and woodland plants.  It’s only about 2 miles outside the town of Windsor, but it feels remote; last fall, some of our group saw a bear and cubs on the road to the gardens as they were driving in. There’s also a small art gallery with really gorgeous paintings, mostly of plants, by Gary, and some metal sculptures.

The true definition of a perennial: Any plant which, had it lived, would have bloomed year after year. –Henry Beard

A note on their website says that Cider Hill, since 1983, has “practiced chemical-free, green gardening, as that is where our hearts and minds have always been. We use a custom-blended organically-based soil mix of compost, loam, leaf mold, peat, perlite, RootShield, and other organic amendments. Our young plants are also fed fish, kelp and bone meal, which they thrive on!”

I love the many varieties of hostas in the known universe — there are between 24-45 hosta species, more than 3,000 hosta cultivars registered with the American Hosta Society, and possibly that many more unregistered — so I enjoy browsing Cider Hill’s large and unusual selection.

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It was peony week when we visited this time, but I didn’t get many shots of them; in fact, just one, of a flower gone-by. I’m sorry, peony lovers. (I will soon have lots of peony shots from my garden.)


Detach, detach, look away from the sun
Let your petals fall aimlessly

Don’t despair, little one, we are done

— from “Peony,” by Marilyn Chin

My attraction was more toward the woodlands plants, like yellow lady slipper, pink trillium, and a pink primula (primrose), though none of these particular species is native here.

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The selection of sedums is interesting, and they will dig up any you want to take home if they are growing in the ground.



I really love this little plant, the one in the front of the planter with hostas, which looks like a miniature Japanese painted fern. I thought it might be a species of sedum but research did not corroborate that theory. It turns out to be a fantastic ground cover for full sun to full shade, Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’ (aka Black Brass Buttons), said to be a “fast grower to 2″ tall” and 18″ wide.



This shrub was a mystery to me (to all of us) until someone in the Plant ID group on Facebook identified it as Sanguisorba canadensis (Canadian burnet) …


… which I should have known because I had had it identified last October from the exact same plant when it was in flower:


Although it was actually ID’d from this lower photo as Sanguisorba officianalis (Great burnet). Now I’m not sure which is correct (both can have pink flowers, though usually S. canadensis is white and S. officianalis is some shade of pink), but in any case, Sanguisorba is a name I need to remember for the next visit. (It means “soaking up blood,” because it was thought that the plant could stop bleeding by contracting blood vessels.)


We also didn’t recognise this plant:


It was ID’d as Persicaria polymorpha, or giant fleece plant, in the buckwheat family. The astilbe-like flower plumes are held about 6 feet above the ground. It’s quite a show-stopper even when not in bloom.


A magnolia shrub had lots of smallish flying insects on it. One of Facebook’s Bug ID groups came to the rescue with “March Fly.” They’re quite lovely, with a sort of black-and-white stained glass effect on the wings.



There are quite a few sculptures among the plants, including a dragonfly on a rock above the hostas, and a Buddha in a large shade garden.


In the same shade garden was a barren strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) ground cover, plus lots of euphorbia that I should have taken photos of.



These small mushrooms (maybe honey mushrooms?) grew near a small inset stone inscribed “Jeb,” which I imagine is a pet grave or memorial marker.


In another area are sculpted mushrooms — perhaps made using the hypertufa process (which one of our group had used and knew all about!): “Making hypertufa is easy, fun, and requires no special tools.  … [H]ypertufa is just a fancy name for a type of concrete that contains …[Portland cement, water, and] perlite or vermiculite (natural porous rock products) and plant fibers such as peat moss or coconut coir.” It’s much lighter than concrete made with sand and gravel, so it’s easier to move around the garden.

Or these may just be the usual, heavy kind of concrete sculpture. Note the Centaurea (perennial bachelor buttons) blooming blue.



A few pieces of Gary’s art that I especially liked:



I’ll end this post with a giant allium, one of my favourite spring-blooming garden plants, so cheerful, especially when massed; though at $9-10 per bulb — about the cheapest I found them online, even in bulk — most of us won’t be massing them.



Cider Hill is open from May through Sept. from 10-5 on Thursday thru Sunday, and in October and November on Fridays thru Sundays.

I like muddling things up; and if a herb looks nice in a border, then why not grow it there? Why not grow anything anywhere so long as it looks right where it is? That is, surely, the art of gardening. — Vita Sackville-West

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