Kill Your Lawn Lecture Rescheduled – February 11, 2018

The jointly sponsored lecture ‘Kill Your Lawn‘ has been rescheduled due to last minute illness of the presenter, Mark Richardson. The lecture will now be held on Sunday, February 11, 2018 at 2 p.m. at the Nashua River Watershed Association, 592 Main Street, Groton, MA.

We expect this event to be well-attended and advise that you contact the Nashua River Watershed Association to reserve a place and ensure your seat. Please call 978-448-0299 or send an email to to reserve your place.

Note that registering for this lecture will also put your name on a list to be notified in case snow or other reason requires cancellation. Our new snow date is February 18, 2018.

Winter Orchid Shows

Paphiopedilum – unidentified vinicolor

In late January I attended the Cape & Islands Orchid Society’s annual show in Hyannis, MA. Winter orchid shows provide a welcome taste of the tropics on a winter day in Massachusetts! There are two other shows coming up in February. This weekend, from Friday, February 9 through Sunday, the New Hampshire Orchid Society will hold their show in Nashua. The Amherst Orchid Society will host their show in Northampton on February 24-25.

Paphiopedilum – unidentified


Orchids come in many colors, shapes, sizes and cultural needs. They are fun to grow, although sometimes challenging to rebloom. It is also fun to simply visit a show and enjoy the beauty of these flowers. I’ve included some pictures and care information for orchids that are quite different from the Phalaenopsis (Phals), or moth orchids that are easily found in supermarkets and other stores. The Phals are lovely, but it’s fun to explore other types of orchids.

Paphiopedilum venustrum album ‘J&L’

There are two main categories of ‘slipper orchids.’ The Paphiopedilums (knowns as Paphs) tend to have waxy flowers that last a long time. Their flowers range from wine-red through bronze-yellow, to green. Most are fairly easy to grow, only requiring the light of an east or west window and the comfortable temperatures of our homes. They want a drop in nighttime temperature, and well-drained, moist potting medium. They don’t like to be soggy, but also don’t like to dry out completely.


Phragmipedium Mem ‘Dick Clements’

Another group of exotic slipper orchids are the Phragmipediums (Phrags.) They typically have softer flowers, with pouches that resemble our native lady-slipper (Cypripedium.) The Phrags are more demanding in culture, with many being very sensitive to drying out and to the quality of water used. To grow these successfully, you need to understand the cultural requirements of the individual variety. Some like to almost dry out between watering, others like to sit in a shallow pool of water at all times. They require good light and air movement. If you like a challenge, these can be worth growing – some come in brilliant colors, such as the one pictured to the right. Others have very long petals that reach a few feet in length, and others that spiral and twist.


Clowesia ‘Rebecca Northen’

The Clowesia orchids are reputed to be easier to maintain than the slipper orchids.  They like bright open shade, good humidity and frequent watering, with good air movement, during their period of active growth in summer. They can be grown in a shade house or under a tree. When weather becomes cold in the fall, these plants will enter dormancy and drop their leaves. At this point they should be brought inside,  not be watered or fed and may be kept on a windowsill, or even put into a basement with no light until they form flower spikes.  The plant will start to form new growths (pseudobulbs) in the spring. Once those start to form new roots,  you may resume watering.

(Note that the plant pictured is mislabeled by the grower. The caption has the correct spelling.)

Brassia  (or hybrid) & Phalaenopsis

Brassias often have many flowers, growing on alternate sides of a long spike. As the flowers themselves are long, this can make a dramatic display with only one plant. They want to be watered once or twice a week when actively growing during warmer months, and less often when growth slows. They can be grown on an east or west facing window, or a shaded south window. If grown in a north facing window, they are unlikely to bloom. As with most orchids, they benefit from high humidity and good air movement.

If any of these orchids tempt you to try your hand at growing, additional information can be found online. The American Orchid Society website is particularly helpful with care sheets on many kinds of orchids. Orchid shows are also a good place to learn more, to meet people who grow orchids, and to learn about local orchid societies.

Information about the New Hampshire Orchid Society’s show can be found at and the Amherst Orchid Society gives the location of their show at

















Clowesias have a totally different look – they drop all their leaves and enjoy a period of dormancy with little to no water. They then reward the grower with a lovely cascade of flowers. The one pictured here is named after Rebecca Tyson Northen, author. (Note that the name is misspelled on the label – an unfortunately common error in the orchid world.)

A Favorite for Windowsill Gardening

Albuca spiralis

One of my favorite plants for growing on my narrow, sunny windowsill is Albuca spiralis ‘Frizzle Sizzle’. I bought it on a Garden Club trip to the Lyman Greenhouse where we went to see Camellias. It appealed to me because it was small and had corkscrew-like leaves and was advertised to stay small and need very little watering.

Albuca spiralis, in bloom

Over the winter the leaves continued to curl beautifully and provide interest and admiration by everyone who saw it.  Then all of a sudden something emerged out of the bulb from the middle of the plant. It appeared to be a flower bud. I hadn’t done any  research on this intriguing plant so I was completely surprised as the stem carrying the potential flower grew taller and taller until it surpassed all the twisty leaves below it and opened to reveal a pale yellow fragrant flower.

Flower of Albuca spiralis


It goes completely dormant in the summer nd needs to be kept fairly dry and warm. In the fall new leaves appear and my bulb has started to have two sets of leaves emerging. I think this may mean it will have two flower stems. Also I see a tiny set of new leaves appearing in the soil next to the main bulb. Will it be a successful seedling?

A fun website that I recently found has an article about this plant: You can read ‘The perils of being interesting Albuca Spiralis’ at: (if the link doesn’t work, search for the website, then search for ‘being interesting’ and you will find the article, written on June 25, 2014, and updated August 2017.)

Article submitted by Groton Garden Club member, Camilla


Don’t Miss “Kill Your Lawn” Lecture!

On Sunday, January 28 at 2:00 p.m. the Groton Garden Club and the Nashua River Watershed Association will co-sponsor “Kill Your Lawn,” a lecture that is funded by the Groton Commissioners of Trust Funds.

Mark Richardson, director of the New England Wildflower Society’s Botanic Garden, will discuss reasons for replacing your lawn with beautiful and environmentally friendly native plantings.

This lecture is free and open to the public, and the snow date is February 11 at 2:00 p.m. It will be held at the home of the NRWA, 592 Main Street, Groton MA.

Princess Diana Clematis, Year One

Clematis texensis ‘Princess Diana’

I have never been a Clematis person. I wanted to be; I yearned for the vertical gardening, and needed something to put color on my garden fence. Not only would Clematis not do well for me for years, but they would die, despite amended soil, watering, lime, shaded roots. They scorned me, so for years I gave up, and scorned them in return, not buying or even thinking of them.

Over the last couple of years I have done slightly better with a few of them, after moving them to better locations, but their performance has still been poor in general, and their dead-looking vines are a bleak depressing sight during the winter, hardly worth tolerating, for the possibility of blooms the next summer.

Perhaps ‘Princess Diana,’ a type 3 Clematis with tulip-shaped bright pink flowers, will fulfill my need for a colorful vine that doesn’t give up after one pathetic show. My princess is only in her first year, so it is premature to hope, but she has grown six feet since May, and has presented me with two very long, very bright, very tulip-like flowers, in October!

Shall I hope that the happy, bright princess displays more blooms next year, or shall I continue cynical with regards to Clematis? Next year I will post an article showing how she does. If she does well, she will have, with her magic, changed my cynical attitude toward all Clematis, enchanting my mind with the power of her beauty.

Princess Diana is hardy to zone 5, and as a type 3 Clematis can be cut down close to the ground in late fall, eliminating the existence of old dead vines all winter. She is fast-growing, likes moist soil, and tolerates a fair amount of shade. She is said to sport a long growing season, July through October in the Northeast.