A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

I know, I read way too many Victorian novels, but come on, Dickens is a classic. You can never read too much Dickens. I'll fess up. Right now, I'm reading Jane Austen. Just resting up from my garden labors. I spent the long weekend transplanting. Pansies here, cleome there, balsam everywhere. I spread out the Mexican marigolds and Aztec sunflowers. I should have waited on the sunflowers. Like most sunflowers, they don't like being moved. I should have waited until they were a bit bigger and had more leaves. The ones I moved didn't make it. That's okay. My motto is "The best thing about gardening is that there is always next year."

The roses have begun to bloom. Harrison's Yellow bloomed first. It is now past its prime as the others are just beginning. The first mound of Ipswich pinks are also blooming. The others are budded as well as the mystery pinks from the purple garden. I love walking out my door and inhaling the lovely fragrance. The mystery plant in the New World garden is budded. I still can't figure out what it is. Apparently it wants to keep me guessing for a little while longer. Lastly, the lilies are budded.

That was the good news. The bad news was that the dog-loving neighbors installed a new fence between our yards destroying everything I had planted along the old fence. I had no warning that they were going to do this or I would have moved the plants away from the fence. This is not the first time they have destroyed my garden. Three or four years ago, they decided they didn't want me to grow morning glories on what I later learned was a fence they had installed before I moved into this house. Instead of telling me I shouldn't grow morning glories on "their" fence (as I had been doing for years), they ripped all the vines off the fence. Since the morning glories were also twined amongst some balsam, that was also destroyed. The coup de grace was that the day they chose to do this happened to be my birthday.

So I wasn't surprised when they casually wrought utter havoc on the New World Garden with no warning. I was calmer this time. There is always next year. I can plant again. And this fence is higher and more opaque blocking my view of their dog pen. Hopefully, it will also cut down some on the noise and disgusting smell.

The Neighbor's New Fence (still under contruction in this picture)

Harrison's Yellow

Ipswich Pinks

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Great Garden Shoe Challenge

Over at Garden Freak the gauntlet has been thrown down and a challenge has been issued. Crazygramma wants to see YOUR garden shoes. Never one to back away from a challenge, I am putting mine on display for all to see.

My garden shoes are actually sandals, Bass Sunjuns sandals . My current pair could be as little a year old, but I'm pretty sure they are two years old. Regardless, this will be their last year. I am very hard on shoes and handbags. Next year they will be replaced by an identical pair.

Note the criss-crossing straps. My feet always have interesting tan lines all summer. It was especially attractive when I worked a regular office job and wore pumps to the office. My personal favorite is after I mow the lawn. I love the look of green toes.

Here they are in all their glory:

My Garden Shoes

Friday, May 27, 2005

Money Plant

Two years ago, I planted seeds for Money Plant (Lunaria). Being a biennial, it bloomed last year. Money Plant can have white or purple flowers. For some reason, all of mine were white flowers. I saved the seeds and planted them this year in the purple garden and the cosmos garden. For the life of me I cannot remember what I was thinking when I planted seeds for a white flower in the purple garden.

At the same time, some mystery plants in the Medieval Garden and the Yellow/Orange Garden from last year turned out to be Money Plants. The seeds must have been carried into my yard courtesy of my feathered friends. They were also kind enough to drop some in my neighbor's yard. All of the plants have purple flowers! I'm going to save the seed from the plants in my yard to plant next year.

The big question in my mind is what color(s) will the flowers be from the seeds I saved from the white flowered plants and from the purple flowered plants? Is one color dominant and one recessive? Can white flowers only produce white flowers or will they produce both colors? If it produces both colors, will there be more white than purple? Obviously, I was paying attention in Biology class oh so many years ago.

Money Plant I planted

Money Plant I didn't plant

They're not all purple

I forgot to post a couple of pictures yesterday. A little variety from all the purple flowers. I have posted a picture already from 2003 of the lavender and yellow iris clump. It is huge this year with lots of flowers. There were more, but the rabbit/squirrel ate half a dozen. The lavender iris is from the original clump that was growing here when I moved in. The yellow iris is from a fellow gardener who found it growing at his house when he moved in and was generous enough to share some with me.

Still blooming from earlier this month is the fernleaf bleeding heart. They are not a big favorite of mine but unlike the old-fashioned bleeding heart which blooms and then dies back until the following year, the fernleaf will continue blooming all summer. Finding something to fill the space occupied by the old-fashioned bleeding heart after it dies back has been challenging. This year I planted Joe-Pye Weed . It came in the form of a root and has remained in the form of a root. Apparently it has elected not to grow.

Another challenge has been trying to vary the colors in the semi-shady garden. It is dominated by pink. I'm trying a yellow perennial foxglove this year . I love foxglove, but haven't had any luck growing it from seed. I splurged and bought the yellow foxglove as a plant. So far, it is doing well although it doesn't look like it will bloom this year. I also have seeds for wild purple foxglove which I will be planting both in the purple garden and in the new wildflower garden. There is conflicting advice as to when to plant the seeds. Some say to plant the seeds in the spring and others say to plant it in the summer. I have tried the spring with no success so I am going to try waiting a little longer this year. My biggest question is: when is "summer"?

Lavender and Yellow Iris

Fernleaf Bleeding Heart

Thursday, May 26, 2005

What's Blooming Now

It's been cool and rainy for over a week now. So cool, in fact, that my heat comes on periodically. Daytime temperatures have struggled to get into the 60's while the nights have dropped to the 40's. We've been getting much needed rain. The plants are loving it. I have lots of little seedlings, some of which I have no idea what they are. Despite all my lists and maps, when I actually did the planting earlier this month, I deviated significantly from my elaborate diagrams. I can only guess at the identity of some of the plants that are growing.

Quite a few them will never reach maturity. I have confirmed that I have a rabbit problem. There was a rustling under one of my hydrangeas in front of my house. It took some doing because it is a large bush, but I managed to flush out the noisemaker. It was a baby rabbit. Very cute, but very hungry. When I looked again the next day, most of the seedlings in my front garden had been eaten entirely or partially chewed. Too bad because I had planted seashell cosmos , Scabious mix zinnias , mystery marigolds that I received as a free trial and old-fashioned climbing petunias. I think it would have been a pretty cottage garden looking bed.

Not much gardening is getting done with all the rain, but I have been taking pictures. Here are some, in no particular order.

Who's been eating my tulips?

Grandpa Ott Morning Glories - hey Bunny, can you thin these out for me?

Purple Garden

Japanese Iris

Siberian Iris



Monday, May 23, 2005

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

After I had finished all of my planting, I took pictures of my backyard. Imagine you are facing the back of my house and turning counter-clockwise. This is what you would have seen:

At the ten o'clock position is the semi-shady garden. Then comes the Holly Garden so-called because there used to be a big holly on the other side of the fence. It made dense shade on my side of the fence and nothing would grow there. I've talked about the crazy neighbors on one side of me and in back of me. The neighbors in whose yard was the holly are the nicest people. A couple of years ago, they decided to get rid of the holly. Complicating the situation was the fact that there was a Blaze rosebush that had climbed up the holly and was intertwined with the branches. I told the neighbors not to worry about the rosebush. I had plenty of them. They could just cut it down. And then I left to run some errands. When I returned, the holly was gone but the rosebush remained. They had carefully untwined the branches. And they aren't even gardeners! I've been trying to find something that will grow well there. This year I am trying a new marigold, Cottage Red, which as the name implies, are supposed to be red. I also threw in some Baby's Breath that I had packs and packs of for some reason and the mystery poppy (after some research, I discovered that it is not a poppy). So far, only the marigolds have germinated.

After the Holly Garden is the Cosmos Garden. This is another strange spot along the fence. Nothing grows there. Anything I plant dies. Cosmos, for some reason, loves that spot. I have had 6' plants grow there. I transplanted some Ipswich pinks there two years ago and they seem to be doing okay. This year I moved some unidentified pinks from the Purple Garden into an empty spot and they seem to have also taken root and are budded. Last year, I tried growing Bachelor Buttons (Corn Flowers) and Queen Anne's Lace. Both did so-so. I am trying them again this year. The Bachelor Buttons, both seed that I saved and seed that I purchased are germinating as are the cosmos (Sensation).

In the next corner is the shady garden with the birdbath. I am growing ferns there for the the first time this year. Of the six I planted last fall, only two survived the squirrels and the winter. I planted a Japanese Painted Fern in front of the birdbath this spring. It hated it there so I moved it back along the fence and it is much happier. The hosta I got from Rutgers Gardens is much, much larger than I realized. I'm going to have to move it or the iris it is crowding. And, unbelievably, after all of my bitching and moaning about the hellebores, they are growing like mad!

Along the back fence are day lilies, then the Yellow/Orange Garden and then two Blaze rosebushes. I moved a lot of iris out of the Yellow/Orange Garden, so it looks very bare. The roses, on the other hand, look very messy for good reason. Poison Ivy has firmly taken root and is growing all over the roses and the fence. Normally I uses an herbicide to get rid of it, the only time I willingly use a poison. It kills the poison ivy and everything else so I can't use it around the roses.

In the next corner is the old shed that came with the house. In front of it is the circular bed containing both the Purple Garden and the Green Garden. Along the side of the shed is the Medieval Garden. The New World Garden is the long border between my house and the dog-loving neighbors.

The garden containing the rosebushes and iris along the back of my house has not been cleaned out and enlarged yet. I'm taking my time doing it since I am not planning on doing any planting there this year. And lastly, is the lilac bush.

These pictures were taken on May 11. It is amazing how much the gardens have filled in in the short time since then.

Semi-Shady Garden

Holly Garden and Cosmos Garden

Shady Garden

Yellow/Orange Garden

Purple Garden and Green Garden

Medieval Garden and New World Garden

Back of the house

Lilac Bush

Monday, May 16, 2005


The columbine are beginning to bloom. I am growing three kinds and have planted seeds for three more kinds. Only two are blooming right now. The third is a poor Songbird hybrid that I grew from seed years ago that I can't decide where I want it. Earlier this spring, it made its third (and hopefully, final) move to the front of the house. Despite being transplanted, it is budded so apparently it will bloom also.

In the semi-shady garden, the Grandmother's Garden columbine is putting on a spectacular show. It is described as "An antique form with short spurs of dark rose, violet, pink and white flowers". The one that is currently blooming is the dark rose. It is also the tallest columbine I have ever seen. This is the second year it has bloomed. In the same bed are two more that should have bloomed this year for the first time. Neither one is doing well. Both are tiny and unhappy. Eternally optimistic, I have planted more seeds.

In the purple garden are a lot of William Guinness columbine. This started out as one plant. It has reseeded to the point where it has become a real pest. Some of the offspring are finally blooming this year. I was very interested in what they would look like since this is a hybrid and not supposed to reproduce true to form. Surprisingly, all of the plants appear to be identical to the parent.

Grandmother's Garden Columbine

William Guinness Columbine

Also blooming in the purple garden, purple sweet rocket. Since it tolerates semi-shade, I planted seeds for the white version in the semi-shady garden.

Purple Sweet Rocket

A New Woodpecker

I just looked out my window and saw a gorgeous bird on the new birdfeeder. He was huge and looked a lot like Woody Woodpecker with his red head. I looked him up on my chart of common feeder birds. It's another woodpecker! This one is a red-bellied woodpecker. They are not common here. Supposedly they only come to feeders in the winter. I'm glad this one decided to sample my special mix of seed.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Sunday, May 15, 2005


The iris have finally begun to bloom. Of course the first clump to bloom is behind the hose cart and under the rosebush right next to the ugly outlet pipe for the sump pump. Not a pretty picture, but I posted it anyways. I'm trying to figure out what kind of iris they are. They have "beards" so they are some sort of bearded iris, but the blossoms are smaller and more delicate than the bearded iris with which I am familiar.

The first catalogs for fall bulbs and plants have arrived and one of them says English iris prefers semi-shade. That would work in a few places in my yard. They would make a wonderful addition to the bearded iris, Siberian iris and Japanese iris that I have already. Perhaps next year I will order some. This year I am ordering Iris bucharica which is native to Afghanistan and Iris dardanus , my first heirloom iris.

First iris of the year

Friday, May 13, 2005

What's Blooming Now

While I am waiting for the iris and the columbine to bloom, I am enjoying lily of the valley and wood hyacinths. I planted lily of the valley in three places in my yard. Under the lilac bush, in the semi-shady garden right next to it and in the shady garden. It refused to grow in the semi-shady garden at all. It reluctantly grows in the shady garden. It exuberantly grows and spreads under the lilac bush. The scent is wonderful. I didn't think of it when I planted it, but wouldn't it smell great if the lilac bloomed also?

The shady garden gets sunlight only very early in the morning. It is in deep shade the rest of the day. Also reluctantly growing there are some wood hyacinths. Originally there were pink, white and blue. Only a couple of blue have survived.

Lily of the Valley

Wood Hyacinths

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Good News, Bad News

The bad news first. The squirrels (or perhaps a rabbit) ate all the Seashell cosmos seedlings in the semi-shady garden. This is new. I've never had a problem with seedlings being eaten. In the same garden, I had also planted my first climbing rose, Zephirine Drouhin (introduced 1868)which is shade tolerant. I purchased it from a reputable company, I can't remember which one at the moment. It (the rose) is doing exactly nothing. I think it is dead. Contrast this with the two rosebushes I purchased at the drug store of all places. I was filling a prescription last month and saw rosebushes on sale for $4.97 each. I had to look. Unbelievably, I found a Fairy (introduced 1932) and a General Jacqueminot (introduced 1853). I planted them on the site of the failed herb garden and they are both growing nicely.

Also in the good news category, the birds and the squirrels didn't get all of the seeds I planted. The Candy Cane zinnias have sprouted in the New World Garden and the calendulas are coming up in the yellow/orange garden.

I have mystery seedlings that I didn't plant. They only have their first two leaves but judging from their position I'm going to guess that they are cleome that reseeded from last year. If so, they are right next to where I planted the heirloom Rose Queen cleome so they will have to be transplanted somewhere else.

A New Bird

I have been trying to learn birdcalls. This afternoon as I walked out of the house to water the gardens, I heard a birdcall that was unfamiliar. When I looked for the source of the call, I saw a red-winged blackbird. I know that their range includes New Jersey but I haven't seen one since my childhood in upstate New York.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Last Day, Last Gardens

I didn't have a lot of time today to work in the gardens. I have been gradually turning my schedule around because I have to go back to work tomorrow night. But I had enough time to plant the last of my seeds.

The morning glory seeds did get soaked overnight so I was able to plant the Grandpa Ott morning glories on either side of the shed door as usual from seed that I had saved. This year I am adding Ruby Port columbine to the beds.

I planted the usual balsam by the composter. A few always reseed themselves every year. I think I have finally figured out how to save seed from it so that I won't have to keep buying it. Last year some cleome that I had gotten as seeds from a gardening friend did very well in the same general area so this year I am adding Rose Queen cleome, listed in an 1836 catalog, to the composter garden. Lastly, I planted Heavenly Blue morning glories. These will be started in this sunny bed. Then, when the plants are big enough to be transplanted, they will be moved to the semi-shady garden. Morning glories don't do well there, but I do this every year because I love coming home to this every morning.

I had enough time today to quickly create a new garden. It's one I have wanted to do for a few years and even bought seeds to plant in it two years ago. First, though, I had to get rid of the poison ivy and other brush that had taken over while my neighbor had neglected his yard. It has taken me a few years, but it's finally cleared out. All I had to do today was move some violets and mix in some compost. I don't know if the seeds are too old to germinate. I had planned a sort of wild flower garden with lupines, wild columbine and cowslip. I also threw in some lovage I received in a seed exchange . It will be fun to see what, if anything, decides to grow there.

Speaking of which, I will now begin my daily routine of obsessively looking for signs that my seeds are sprouting. Intellectually I know that it is ridiculous to expect germination this rapidly but hope springs eternal. Now, if it would only rain . . .

These are so cute I just had to take a picture!

Heartsease aka Johnny Jump Ups

Monday, May 09, 2005

Semi-Shady Garden

The semi-shady garden was the first garden I created at this house. The backyard is enclosed by an ugly chainlink fence. When I moved in, the previous owners had randomly planted azaleas along the most of the fence and the back of the house. Each bush was a different color and size. I loathe azaleas so I went on a mission to eliminate them. Each year I would dig out a flower bed along a section of fence, yanking out the offending azaleas in that area. I started in the corner closest to the side door and steadily worked my way around the yard ending with the back of the house where I planted my first heirloom roses .

The first section was located in a corner very close to my neighbor's oak tree which has been so good at predicting the weather . This corner gets sun early in the morning and late in the afternoon. The rest of the day it is in dappled shade. While clearing out the azaleas, I found a tiny seedling rosebush. Using twine, I tied it to the fence. The poor thing looked crucified. It has grown and bloomed each year but not well. I don't think that it gets enough sunlight.

The very first plant I planted in this garden was an old-fashioned bleeding heart. They are one of my favorite flowers. I am also extremely superstitious. We moved around a lot when I was child. Every house we lived in, my mother planted an old-fahsioned bleeding heart next to the back door. I have continued this tradition in the two houses I have lived in as an adult. The bleeding heart loves the spot I picked for it. It is just huge now. Also that first year, I planted a fern leaf bleeding heart and started planting a few primroses each year. I made the mistake of transplanting some violets into this bed. They are so happy there, they try to take over every year. I have to be ruthless about eliminating all unwanted seedlings.

I have tried growing many different flowers in that spot over the years, but it is a difficult garden. It either gets too much shade or too little shade for most flowers. The flowers that have been successful there are not ones I would expect. Such as Ipswich pinks and sweet william. And cosmos. Cosmos, which normally like sun, grow great there. Last year I tried some Seashell cosmos, a wonderful old heirloom, there. It was a dismal failure. But . . . today when I was preparing the bed for planting, I found about two dozen cosmos seedlings. I moved them to along the fence and crossed my fingers. Maybe I will have a pleasant surprise.

Today I planted Grandmother's Garden columbine seed. There is already one there that is huge that I had grown from seed and two that are not doing well at all so I don't know if this columbine does well here or not. Another experiment is White sweet rocket. I am growing the purple version in the purple garden which gets more sun but this flower is supposed to be able to tolerate partial shade.

I am also trying Valerian, another one that I can't remember why I ordered it other than it will grow in partial shade and I liked the picture. The last seed packet had me puzzled for days. Gas plant. I've never heard of it. What would possess me to order such a thing? I finally dragged out the catalog (I've learned to save catalogs after I order from them). "Once called Fraxinella or Burning Bush, gas plant was commonly grown in England in the late 16th century . . . As the old names suggest, the volatile oils released by the ripening star-shaped seedpods can be ignited, if all atmoshperic conditions are right". An exploding heirloom. Definitely something that would appeal to me. Patience is recommended to germinate and grow this, but I can wait. No problem.

Today, I swear, I am going to get up from this computer and march myself into the kitchen without getting distracted and start soaking my morning glory seeds. I've been forgetting to do this for a week now.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day if you are a mother. If not, do something nice for your mother today. You'll understand how much it is appreciated when you become a mother or a father.

My iris disappointed me this year. Normally they are in bloom on Mother's Day. This year they are just now developing buds. It must be because of the cool weather we have had all spring. Most of the iris came with the house. I found a large clump of pale lavender iris growing under one of the rosebushes. I dug it up and distributed it all over. No matter where I planted it, it was happy and increased annually. A fellow gardener gave me some iris that came with his house so now I also have some red iris, yellow iris and white iris. I also added some Japanese iris and Siberian iris which bloom later in the spring. But what stands out is the innumerable pale lavender irises.

I treated myself to a new birdbath for Mother's Day. More accurately, a new bowl for my birdbath. Mine had cracked over the winter, but the pedestal is fine. I was fortunate enough to find a garden center that allowed me to purchase just the bowl instead of an entire set. I'm not sure who enjoys the birdbath more, me or the birds. It's in a corner of my yard in the shade garden, nice and cool in the summer. I love watching the birds line up on the fence, patiently waiting their turn to hop into the birdbath and splash around.

I have been less amused with them this week. The day after I had planted the New World garden, I discovered the birds and probably also the squirrels had dug up and eaten most, if not all, of the sunflower and pumkin seeds leaving just the husks as evidence of their pilferage. I'm hoping they missed a few. That's all I really need is just a few. Then I watched in horror each day as I went into the house after working all day and the birds promptly settled in to eat all of the flower seeds that I had just planted. Even birds who are not normally ground feeders were feasting on what to them must have been a marvelous buffet. With my luck, they are telling all of their friends: "psst . . . all you can eat . . . Middlesex . . . pass it on". Now I understand the extremely poor germination rate I experience with a lot of the seeds I plant. They have been eaten.

No rain at all this weekend despite the predictions. I even tried getting my car washed sure that that would guarantee a downpour but the weather gods must be upset with me and didn't send any badly needed rain.

Mother's Day 2002

Mother's Day 2003

Friday, May 06, 2005

Purple Garden

I didn't create the purple garden. I just took it over before it merged completely back into the lawn. It has an odd mixture of perennials, mainly purple. Asters, William Guiness columbine, Japanese iris, Siberian iris, lamb's ear, Shasta daisies, Milky Way morning glories that are neither perennial nor purple, and other things that I honestly don't know what they are. I have been keeping to the original purple color scheme but have allowed myself some leeway to try new and often hybrid flowers. I have also tried to grow a few herbs with varying success. Common sage was a huge winner. Catnip was not. Or rather, it was until the neighbor's cat discovered it. I would watch him through the window rolling in the catnip with an expression of ecstasy. Last year, I transplanted in some purple coneflowers that I had grown from seed. I was puzzled when they didn't bloom. Then I read that coneflowers need to reach a certain size before they will bloom.

Last year, I established the aster quadrant. I concentrated all of the asters in one spot because they have a tendency to take over. I also planted some green flowers in another sliver. Trying to tame both areas was an exhausting process. The weeds had gotten a solid foothold. This year I was more ambitious, expanding the green garden to an entire quadrant. And widening the entire circle. I've been eyeing the half that was left with trepidation.

But it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Because the perennials are still short, it was easier than I had anticipated to get between them and do a thorough job of weeding. I moved asters into the aster area, lambs ear offshoots back into the main bunch and consolidated the sage into one grouping. Earlier this spring, I had planted a purple daylily, Ace of Spades iris and Hidcote lavender. Today I planted Poker primroses, Plum Blossom snapdragons, Zebrina (yes! more hollyhocks), anise hyssop, clary sage (yes! more sage),Ballerina Purple datura and Chalon Supreme pansies (heirlooms).

I've grown the Zebrina and pansies before with success. My success with snapdragons has been spotty but I read somewhere that they need light to germinate so I just sprinkled the seeds over the soil like I did the poppies. The poppies are doing well. I'm hoping the snapdragons do too. If the birds don't eat all of the seeds first.

It's supposed to rain tomorrow so I'm taking the day off from gardening. Rain is just what I need right now with all of the transplanting and seed sowing I have done all week.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Green Garden

I have always been fascinated by green flowers. It's just not a "normal" color for a flower. Leaves and stems are supposed to be green. Flowers are not. I've been growing green zinnias since I was a child. A few years ago, I started growing Bells of Ireland not because it was green but because I have fond memories of it in gardens I had enjoyed in my youth. The idea to combine the two and start an all-green garden is not mine. I "borrowed" it from a fellow gardener.

I cleared out a quadrant of the purple garden (it is circular) and planted some old friends and some new ones. I started in the early spring with a green miniature hybrid tea rose that I had ordered on impulse from a catalog. I don't know what possessed me. I have a real talent for killing hybrid tea roses. Maybe I thought that if I killed this one, it would only be a small mistake instead of a full-sized mistake. The rose arrived in the mail while I was desperately ill with the flu and there was still snow on the ground. I watered it well and put it in my front window which gets the afternoon sun. The rose flourished. It even developed buds. Then I planted it outside. It immediately threatened to die. So far it has only been a threat. The little rose is still among the land of the living, but looking very sad. Obviously it is longing to be back in its cozy window.

Today I planted Green Wizard rudbeckia, Lime Green tobacco, Envy zinnias, Bells of Ireland, Lady's Mantle, Green Apple columbine, Hens and Chicks and Bistro Lettuce. Don't ask me to explain the lettuce. It was temporary insanity. We all know that I can't grow actual food.

By the way, that sounded easy, didn't it? It wasn't. I transplanted about fifty cosmos seedlings, one at a time, into their proper "cosmos spot", moved a dozen asters into the "aster quadrant", relocated three columbines and dug out all the weeds that had infested this portion of the purple garden. Then, and only then, was I able to sow all my seeds.

Water well and try not to think about the hell that awaits me in the purple garden tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Yellow/Orange Garden

When I moved into this house, the neighbor whose yard borders my back fence was infamous in the neighborhood for neglecting his yard. He had allowed the strip that ran along our shared fence to become completely overgrown. Very little sunlight penetrated the weeds and saplings which also grew through the chainlink fence. Twice a year I trimmed everything that was growing through the fence. Amazingly, two Blaze rosebushes and some daylilies were managing to survive on my side of the fence. I tried all kinds of flowers but nothing else would grow there.

Then he decided to run for town council. Down came the dead tree that everyone had been sure was going to fall down and destroy our houses. The brush along the fence magically disappeared. An actual lawn appeared. I was thrilled. In celebration, I planted a lot of bright yellow and orange flowers in what had formerly been a gloomy spot in my yard. The first year they didn't do too well. The neighbor sprayed herbicide to rid his yard of the poison ivy that has plagued me since moving in (I'm very allergic) and all the plants on my side of the fence either died or were stunted. But in the years since I've had great success growing different kinds of flowers in a spot that had been barren for so long.

Along with the usual Bright Lights cosmos, Double Dwarf Jewel nasturtiums and calendulas that I always grow there I am trying some new flowers and retrying some others. Zinnias have always done well for me there. Of all the heirlooms I have tried, I am partial to the Persian Carpet variety. I know, not terribly old, but I still like them. I am trying the Tri-Color Daisies again. This is the third time, third location. If they don't work out again, I swear I will never plant them again. For a few years at least. And I am trying the Chinese Lanterns again. Second time, second location. Besides being heirlooms, I have fond memories of them from my childhood.

New this year are Harlequin marigolds from the 1870's, Blackberry lilies which aren't really lilies but a form of iris and saffron. I can't for the life of me remember why I ordered the saffron. I know I had a reason at the time. Just for fun, I am trying Medusa Ornamental peppers. They are really wild looking. I don't expect much from them because I have the worst luck growing anything remotely edible. Earlier this spring, I threw some Corn poppy seeds into the bed that I got for free and decided to make part of the great poppy experiment. They have germinated and are growing quite happily. My first poppies!

Tomorrow I will be tackling another of my color gardens, the Green garden.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Medieval Garden

I love history. Naturally, I have delved into the history of gardening. I read a book on medieval gardens (see sidebar) over the winter. I think what I found most fascinating about medieval gardens is that they were designed for scent rather than color and form as we do today. I also found that some of my favorite flowers were being grown during the medieval period so I decided to try a medieval type garden. Architecturally it is not authentic, but it does contain plants that were grown during that time.

I didn't have to widen the bed along the shed. I did that last fall when I planted the fritillaria (introduced to Europe in the 16th century and popular in 17th century gardens.) and the Madonna lily. The fritillaria does not really fit, but I liked it. When I cleared out the bed for the New World Garden a few days ago, my beloved hollyhocks were transplanted into the new medieval bed. I thought they didn't survive the move, but they are tough and are growing nicely now.

They were joined by three Johnny Jump Ups. I love these little flowers. They are weeds for everyone but me. I have the hardest time trying to grow them. This is the fourth or fifth place in my yard I am trying them. I want them to become invasive. I just adore their happy little faces. Also they were a favorite of Henry VIII. Tudor England is one of my favorite historical periods.

Today I planted seeds for Love Lies Bleeding (what a great name), Monkshood (also called Wolf's Bane, I had to have it!), German Chamomile, Common Thyme, Sweet Marjoram and Hyssop. The chamomile is a second try. It was part of the disastrous herb garden attempt last year. I am hoping it will thrive and bloom so I can make tea from the blossoms. The thyme and marjoram are herbs I plan on drying and using in my cooking. The hyssop is supposed to have a wonderful scent and can be used in pot pourri. And, last but not least, I planted more Johnny Jump Ups.

Next up, the Yellow/Orange garden.

Monday, May 02, 2005

New World Garden

I'm taking a week off from work with the intention of getting as many of my gardens planted as possible. Weather permitting. The first garden I am working on is the New World garden. Aside from the Kong sunflowers, all of the plants in this garden originated in the New World. The Kong sunflowers (12' high!) are necessary as a screen with the advantage that they will also provide food for the birds and squirrels. I'm trying to screen the neighbor's dogs. They have six small dogs. They used to have seven large dogs. They seem to have different dogs each year. I have never had the courage to ask them what happens to the dogs from the prior years.

First I have to widen the bed. I am on a mission to widen all of the beds every year. My goal is to eventually eliminate the lawn completely. Then I have to finish emptying it out. I have already moved the hollyhocks into the new Medieval Garden. I am moving the Johnny Jump Ups there also. They were called "Heartsease" and are the ancestors of all of our pansies. I love both. There also a few pansies that wintered over from last year. I am moving them down near the composter where I have been growing Balsam. The mystery plants will stay until I determine what they are and where they will fit in in my gardening scheme. At least for this year.

The bed is along a fence that is conveniently divided into sections. Along the first section I am planting Candy Cane zinnias. I remember these from my childhood. Does that make me an heirloom? Zinnias originated in Mexico. Then there will be four o'clocks, originally from Peru and finally Texas Bluebonnets. From Texas, of course.

The next section will be my pumpkin patch. I am trying Connecticut Field pumpkins this year. Interspersed with the vines will be Scarlet Runner beans on poles. These are from seeds I saved last year. I grew them in hopes of attracting hummingbirds. No hummingbirds, but I liked the beans. As decoration, of course. I would never do anything so practical as grow something to eat! They were grown by Native Americans who did eat them.

In the last section, I am trying Cempoalxochitl marigolds again. These are wild marigolds from Oaxaca, Mexico. They have single blossoms and grow to be 4' or 5' tall. They didn't do well for me last year in another bed, so I am trying them here to see if they do any better. In the same section will also be Aztec sunflowers. I've grown them before successfully and really love them. I read recently that hummingbirds also love them so I have my fingers crossed.

There is one more section of fence before the composter and shed. In that section I have Alpine strawberries which I grew from seed years ago. They should be in the medieval garden, but don't like to transplanted. I have been growing balsam there for the past two years and will again this year. I threw some California poppy seeds in in March and they seem to be germinating. I have my fingers crossed there also. I have never been able to successfully grow poppies.

Tomorrow I will be working on the Medieval Garden.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

What's blooming now

I've been taking pictures every morning when I come home from work of the plants that are currently blooming in my garden:

Money Plant


More Primroses

Alpine Strawberries

Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart

Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart

What's not blooming

Aside from a single flower last year, my lilac never blooms.

Lilac Bush