A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Monday, June 27, 2005


I'm convinced that there is a conspiracy. We always seem to have perfect gardening weather on the days that I have to sleep because I am working those nights. Then on the days I am not working and can be awake during the day, the weather turns beastly. The thermometer in my car said it was 97F (36C) this afternoon. I managed to get some weeding and trimming done, but I have to admit I took my time with the laundry today so I could linger in the basement where it was cool. Even the cat was sprawled on the cool cement floor.

The daylilies are putting on a spectacular show. They have really taken off since the brush was removed from the other side of the fence and the drought ended. I thought getting more light would be good for them, but now I am in doubt. The clump is located on the edge of the shady garden. One would think the clump would expand towards the sunny side of the border. Instead, it is expanding into the shady garden. Very strange.

The Citronella lilies are blooming. They are new for me this year. I love them. I still have hopes that the other lilies I planted will eventually come up. I have had lots of seeds germinate the following year or even two years after I planted them. I have my fingers crossed that bulbs will do the same.

The last clump of Japanese iris is blooming. It does this every year. It's always the last iris to bloom. It waits until all of the other iris is finished blooming almost as if it didn't want any competition and wanted to be adored by itself. I have some very weird plants in my garden. They say people and their pets resemble each other. I wonder if it is true about gardeners and their gardens.

In the Purple garden, some non-purple flowers are blooming, the Picotee cosmos and Shasta daisies. I have two clumps of Shasta daisies. I grew the one in the Purple garden from seed. The other clump in the Cosmos garden I purchased as a plant.

Daylilies in 2001 . . .

. . . and today

Citronella Lilies

Japanese Iris - better late than never!

Picotee Cosmos

Another Picotee Cosmos

Shasta Daisy - I grew these from seed

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


More violent thunderstorms today. This time the thunder did wake me up. Not loud thunder, it was the thunder in the distance before the storm arrived. I listened to it get closer and closer. When the storm finally arrived, the rain came down in sheets. The wind was blowing so hard that I had to close some windows. With much trepidation, I went out after dinner to see what damage the gardens had sustained.

I was pleasantly surprised. Except for a few poppies that got knocked over, the high winds and driving rain did no damage. The poppies have worked out just as I hoped, providing color while the balsam is still maturing. I tried taking pictures, but it doesn't look as colorful. My imagination must be exagerating the effect.

My real concern, however, is the oak tree. Yesterday, I heard a strange rattling sound on my roof. I was weeding the Cosmos garden at the time so I had a good view of the roof but couldn't see anything that would make that kind of a noise. Then I heard it again. At the same time I noticed two things. One, the wind was blowing and two, something had hit me on the head. To my horror, it was an acorn.

Remember, the oak tree predicts the winter weather. When the winter is going to be severe, the oak tree drops more acorns than normal. When the winter is going to be mild, there are fewer acorns. Last year there were no acorns and the winter was the mildest I've experienced since moving to New Jersey over 20 years ago.

A bad winter means more acorns sooner. They usually start dropping in August. But these acorns have started falling in June. Pretty darn scary. I am going to be keeping a close watch on the oak tree.

Monday, June 20, 2005

What's Blooming Now

The mystery rose in the shady garden is blooming. I was concerned about it because the neighbors along my back fence hacked away everything that was growing on their side of the fence last year. I know that tough old heirloom roses can take that kind of mistreatment, but I wasn't so sure about finicky hybrid tea roses. To my relief, it seems to be doing fine.

The daylilies are also beginning to bloom. I will post a picture when the clump is in full bloom. I'm not much of a photographer, but I managed to get a nice picture of the first blossom. When I was a child, I always knew which houses belonged to "old ladies". They had bunches of old-fashioned daylilies planted along the walks. They've been a favorite of mine every since.

The zebrina in the Medieval Garden is doing something I've never seen before. Two different color flowers on the same stem. The first one was pink, now the subsequent ones are purple.

Mystery Rose

First daylily flower

Zebrina - pink and purple

A better picture of the green rose. Nope, still doesn't look green to me!

A better picture of the Lamb's Ear

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Iris Addict

I've been reading in various garden blogs that some gardeners can't be trusted to go to any store with a garden center without coming home with a carload of plants. Except for roses, I don't have that problem. My downfall is catalogs. All of those gorgeous pictures just scream "Order Me!". Bearing in mind that I have already ordered bulbs and plants from three catalogs, I am now agonizing over the latest Springhill catalog.

At first it was just going to be some more helleborus and primroses. The hellebores that I planted last fall are growing nicely and I have hopes that they will flower next spring. I would like to plant more. And I have expanded the bed where I have the primroses so more primroses are in order.

Then the iris caught my eye. Yellow Siberian iris would be great in the Yellow/Orange Garden. Look, PINK Siberian iris! And pink Japanese iris. And red too! I only have purple right now. Last year I ordered two iris, only one of which, Ace of Spades, came up. I can't remember what the other was. (That's one of the purposes of this blog. To record what I planted, where I planted it, when I planted it and occasionally, why I planted it). I have ordered two more varieties of iris , I'm planning on adding English iris next year and I'm toying with the idea of a whole new bed that could contain Dutch iris, among other things. It's beginning to dawn on me that I have an iris obsession.

I've narrowed it down to the yellow Siberian iris and another iris for the Purple Garden, Batik iris . I've wanted this one for a few years. It's a zebra iris. Now they have new colors, Gnu Flash which is gray, Tiger Honey in yellow and a pink called Baboon Bottom . I. Kid. You. Not. I don't care that it costs $7.99. It's a must-have. What a conversation piece. "And over here is my baboon's ass!"

I'm thinking of changing my blogger name to OldRoses&Iris.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Cool Weather and Cool Links

Ahhhhh . . . I am revelling in the cool weather that our wonderful neighbors to the north in Canada are sharing with us. I am not nearly as happy in the winter when they are equally generous with their arctic air. But during the hot sticky summer months I welcome the refreshing breezes that they send our way. Along with this wecome relief has come much needed rain. I love falling asleep to the sound of rain. Today, we had violent thunderstorms but it was not the thunder and lightening or the wind gusts that woke me, it was the sound of the rain. I smiled at the thought of the thorough watering my gardens were getting before drifting off to sleep once more. I am working four long night shifts this week and sleeping during the day. With all this rain, no gardening is getting done. Instead, I would like to share some blogs I have been reading.

North Country Maturing Gardener is written by a, ahem, mature gardener living in northern New Hampshire. She has Master Gardener certifications in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire so her blog is chock full of great information and advice. She welcomes questions. I asked about iris and she responded with an entire post devoted to answering my question! So feel free to drop by and pick her brains.

Mia, the Nature Nut is a plant collector. She has some really unusual speciman plants in her gardens. What I find most attractive about her blog are the pictures. She has drop dead gorgeous photos of plants, foliage and flowers. Truly eye candy for gardeners. Check out this blog for ideas on new and unusual plants or just for the pictures.

My favorite blogs are the ones written by people like me. Just backyard gardeners, always trying new things and learning as we go along. Cincinnati Cape Cod is written by such a gardener. I think part of the charm of this blog for me is that she lives in a Cape Cod like I do. She also blogs about clearing and planting her beds like I do complete with pictures. Gee, maybe she is me! Be sure to read her post on Worm Lasagna. It's not what you think.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

That Wascally Wabbit

When I moved into this house a decade ago and started planting bulbs, the catalogs I ordered from would add free bulbs to orders over a certain amount. My orders were always large enough to merit the freebies but the freebies were usually tulips that didn't fit my color scheme in the front beds so I just stuck them randomly in the beds in the backyard. The front of my house looked beautifully coordinated. The back looked, shall we say, eclectic. Thank goodness the incentives are now monetary, i.e. $25 off orders of $50 or more. I can get more of what I want instead of more of they want me to have.

Five years ago, when I was going through a particularly difficult period, my best friend gave me a butterfly bush. I was very touched by this because I knew that she was also going through a rough patch. Her breast cancer had recurred. What she didn't tell anyone, not even her husband, was that it was a virulent type that couldn't be treated. She passed away seven months later.

I planted the butterfly bush at the corner of my shed where I could see it from any window at the back of my house. The following spring I discovered I had somehow managed to plant the bush in the middle of a bunch of those random tulips without disturbing a single bulb. It looks quite striking. Bright red tulips around the base of the butterfly bush in the spring, then as they fade and die, the butterfly bush develops its foliage and then blooms attracting an amazing array of butterflies. It's a beautiful memorial to a beautiful woman.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a hole at the base of the butterfly bush. I immediately thought of my resident bunny. Why was he burrowing under the bush? Then I saw another hole. And another. He was digging up and eating the tulip bulbs. I have similar holes in every bed. He seems to only eat the tulips. As far as I can tell, he hasn't disturbed a single daffodil. Crazy Gramma is right. He is a wascally wabbit!

Butterfly Bush and Tulips in April . . .

. . . and today

Hmmm . . . must not have liked the taste of this one.

The Lamb's Ear is blooming in the Purple Garden. I didn't plant it. It came with the garden. I'm not a big fan of Lamb's Ear. The flowers don't move me and I'm not big on foliage. Also blooming in the Purple Garden is another flower that came with the garden and that I don't know what it is. Perhaps someone can identify it for me. It's very pretty. I have always liked daisy type flowers.

Lamb's Ear

HELLO! My Name Is ___________

In the Green Garden, the miniature rose is doing remarkably well. It has another flower but it doesn't look terribly green to me. The picture below is over-exposed, but the flower does look white in person. Regardless, if it continues to do well, I will consider getting a purple one for the Purple Garden next year.

Does this look green to you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Garden Gnome

It's too hot to post. It's too hot to do just about anything except complain about the heat. Lacking air conditioning, I've been forced to do the unthinkable and go to the mall. I'm not a shopper by nature. And I loathe malls probably because of the crowds. Online shopping has been a godsend for me. Desperate times require desperate measures, however. Monday was one of those times. I packed up my coupons which I had been saving for just such an occasion and drove to the mall seeking respite from the heat.

I did well, finding everything that I needed to purchase and a few other impulse items, all on sale. Must have been the effect of the heat. I am not normally an impulse shopper. For once, though, the heat addling my brain was a good thing. I was in Fortunoffs and on a whim did a quick tour of their outdoor department. And there they were. Garden gnomes. On sale even.

I should backtrack a little here. I have been coveting garden gnomes for almost two decades. I was first introduced to them during an episode of "Fawlty Towers". The final scene with John Cleese striding down the road with a garden gnome tucked under his arm intending to use it to inflict bodily harm still makes me howl with laughter. Any time I see them now, I burst out laughing. I have wanted one for my garden in the worst way.

Back to Fortunoffs. Reasonably priced, 25% off and so cute. I bought one, giggling the entire time. I tried to explain to the cashier why I was so amused, but she must not have had a sense of humor or maybe she was just constipated (you know the look, right?).

Since this was not a planned purchase, I can't decide where to put him. He's hanging out in the shady garden for now. I'm sure he will get moved around a lot until I come to a decision on where he looks best.

My Garden Gnome!

The annuals are loving this heat. They are way ahead of schedule. I have my first cosmos blooming in the Purple Garden. They don't usually bloom until July. The Bachelor Buttons and Persian Carpet zinnias are budded. Again, several weeks ahead of their normal bloom time.

First Cosmos of the year

Reine Des Violettes is blooming. I missed the first blossom. It was hidden in the iris. I managed to get a blurry shot of the second blossom before the heat got to it. I had wanted to move this rosebush into the Purple Garden. Supposedly it is purple, but it looks more pink to me. Regardless, it needs to be moved. It is just barely hanging on where it is now. It should get much more sunlight in the Purple Garden. Due to some very poor planning on my part, I planted Cernuum Lilies last fall in the same area where I would like to place this rose so I couldn't move it this spring until the lilies came up and I could see exactly where they were. But they never came up . Next spring, I will just transplant the rose, never mind the lilies.

Reine Des Violettes

Monday, June 13, 2005

Heat Wave

May was so cold that at times my heat went on. June has been making up for it with 90 degree temps every day.

I grow mainly from seeds resulting in overcrowding. Instead of thinning out the seedlings, I have room to spread them out in the beds or move them to other beds where the flower seeds I planted germinated poorly or not at all. But I have only been able to sit back and watch helplessly as the seedlings struggle in the heat. I dare not move them.

A few afternoons we were blessed and cursed with thunderstorms. The blessing was that all of the plants experienced tremendous growth spurts and the ground was soaked enough that I could transplant the larger seedlings. The curse was that the weeds also grew tremendously. It became a race each afternoon after the rain to weed and transplant a few beds or in cases where the seedlings weren't large enough or the weeds were threatening to choke them out, I just weeded around the plants that I wanted to keep leaving the rest of the bed to the weeds for now.

What's blooming now? Pinks, pinks and more pinks with a few Sweet William. I used to have more Sweet William. I'm not sure why it died out. Since it is so easy to grow from seed, I will plant more next year. The mystery pinks that I transplanted from the Purple Garden into the Cosmos Garden have bloomed. They are semi-double and not particularly attractive. The Tiger lilies around the birdbath are blooming. They never cease to amaze me. Supposedly it is much too shady there for them, but every year they come back and bloom their fool heads off. This year after they die back, I'm going to move them to the Yellow/Orange garden. They will get more light there and have the Citronella lilies to keep them company. I am also happy to report that I have my first poppy blossom ever. I'm thrilled to have finally figured out how to grow poppies. I will be planting more next year.

Sweet William

More Sweet William

Ipswich Pinks

Ipswich Pinks - ooh, I like these!

Ipswich Pinks - not many flowers, but the foliage looks healthy.

Mystery pinks

The indominitable Tiger lilies

My first poppy

Don't you just love "oops"s? Sometimes I think they are the best part of gardening. Earlier this year, I had Money Plant come up in unexpected places . This week I noticed a couple of more plants in odd places.

When I was creating the Medieval Garden , I transplanted hollyhocks from along the fence to the new bed. At least I thought they were all hollyhocks. Some of the plants looked an awful lot like Zebrina but that couldn't be because I hadn't grown Zebrina in that bed for a couple of years. Well, I was wrong. I have at least one Zebrina plant in the Medieval Garden. Of course, it had to be the plant I put behind the Money Plant planning on it taking over that space when the Money Plant died back.

Remember the failed herb garden ? I may have given up on it, but the chamomile didn't. It didn't germinate when I planted it last year. Instead it waited until this year and since there was no herb garden, it created it's own garden in a crack in my driveway!

The Zebrina that thought it was a hollyhock

Chamomile. No herb garden? No problem!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Blaze Roses

It's that time of year when I do the Blaze Rose Revue. If you are not fascinated by roses like I am, I would suggest skipping this post and the subsequent pictures.

I have five Blaze rosebushes that came with the house. When I moved in, all of them were horribly neglected. One of them, desperate for sunlight, was climbing a holly bush. Another one of them was completely hidden by an azalea bush and near death. I cleared and dug gardens around all of them, learned to correctly prune them and just in general nursed them back to health. You can imagine my amusement when a neighbor, observing their obvious health and tremendous growth, told me how worried about "her rosebushes" the previous owner had been when she decided to sell the house. This neighbor, who was still in contact with the previous owner at the time, told me how glad she was to be able to relay how well "her rosebushes" were doing.

Not all of "her rosebushes" are doing as well this year. The largest, located at the back of the house, never seems to have a bad year. It sits right outside a bedroom window. I have my computer set up at that window so I can see the gardens, and when it is in bloom, that rose while I am surfing the net. The two along the back fence are not having a good bloom year. They have lots of new growth so I know they are not sick or damaged in any way. They just don't have as many flowers are usual. The rose that had been climbing the holly that was subsequently cut down, is having a tremendous year. I dug out a "before" picture for comparison. The smallest rose that had been strangled by that darn azalea, is having the worst year of all. Two-thirds of it was dead this spring and had to be pruned. It is blooming and has some new growth so I am hopeful that it will survive. I have included a "before" picture for that one also.

Much like the Energizer Bunny, this one just keeps going and going and going. Note all of the new growth.

Not many flowers, but lots of new growth.

A year after being untangled from the holly bush. Two years later . . .

. . . it's having it's best year ever.

The littlest rose two years ago . . .

. . . and now. It is valiantly trying to survive.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Calling All Plant Detectives!

The mystery plant in the New World Garden finally bloomed. It's gorgeous. I love it. I have no clue what it is. It's a perennial or biennial about two feet tall. The blossoms look very much like foxglove but they are extremely tiny. I've checked eNature.com . The list of wildflowers for my area has cleared up many mysteries for me but not this time. It's not on the list. The pictures I took came out really well. I'm hoping someone will recognize it.

Mystery Plant

Mystery Plant - a better picture

Mystery Plant Flowers - closeup

Monday, June 06, 2005


This was supposed to be the Year of the Lily. When I was ordering a Madonna Lily for the Medieval Garden, I realized that aside from a clump of daylilies that came with the house and three orange Tiger Lilies that I had planted around the birdbath, I had no lilies. There are many wonderful heirloom and species lilies that would be great in my gardens. I went on a lily buying spree. Last fall, I carefully sited and planted the bulbs, being careful to cover the evidence with a thick layer of leaves so that the squirrels wouldn't find and eat them. Here's what came up in the spring:

The Madonna lily came up in April, sprouted a lot of leaves and then stopped. It has done nothing else for months. I've never grown one before, so I don't know if this is normal behavior or if I got a dud or if it is just unhappy with where it is growing.

In the Yellow/Orange garden, three Citronella Lilies germinated, grew lustily and are now covered with buds. I know, they are not really heirlooms, having been developed in the 1960's, but I have wonderful childhood memories of them. In the same bed, I planted three Pumilum Lilies . One germinated at the same time as the Citronella lilies but was chewed by a rabbit or a squirrel. It hastily retreated back underground and warned the other two bulbs of the danger. All three have been conspicuous by their absence.

In the Purple Garden, I planted a number of Lavender Mountain Lilies . I don't recall the exact number but apparently they decided there were enough purple flowers there already and only six came up. They have begun to bloom. I don't find them particularly attractive. In the same bed, are three Cernuum Lilies who also heard about the overabundance of purple flowers as well as the rodent threat. They have decided to stay safely underground.

Despite these setbacks, I remain undeterred. I have ordered another Madonna lily. They are expensive, so I order one each year. I'm hoping that either this one will not be a dud or that they grow better if they have a buddy. I have also ordered a Leopard Lily , a North American native. It just screams New World Garden. And I have found a lovely lily that tolerates semi-shady conditions, the Martagon Lily .

Lavender Mountain Lily - extremely tiny and unexciting

Madonna Lily - it has looked like this since April.

Mme Plantier - it has completely covered the outside faucet

Mme Plantier - the pink buds open into white flowers

Mme Plantier - the flowers are tiny but extremely fragrant

Apothecary Rose - it is the most intense pink I have ever seen in a flower.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Roses and More Iris

It's my favorite time of year. The roses are beginning to bloom. Harrison's Yellow has finished it's show and now it's Barrone Prevost (introduced 1842). Mme. Plantier (introduced 1835) is covered with pink buds that will soon become white flowers. The Blaze roses aren't far behind. Reine Des Violettes (introduced 1860) is still hanging in there and will produce a few blooms. The only one that is not doing well is the Apothecary Rose. I am considering moving it into the Medieval Garden where it will get more sun. Zephirine Drouhin has surprised me with a few tiny leaves. I guess it was just playing dead. The Fairy and General Jacqueminot that I purchased at the drug store are both covered with leaves but no buds.

More iris is blooming. A Siberian iris and one that I honestly can't remember what it is. There is one last Japanese iris in the Cosmos Garden that may or may not bloom. It didn't bloom for many years and then surprised me about four years ago.

Barrone Prevost

Barrone Prevost closeup

Siberian Iris

Mystery Iris