A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Sunday, July 31, 2005

A Great Link and A Show-Off

Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening emailed me today to let me know that she had added my blog to her Garden Blog Directory . Always on the lookout for great gardening blogs, I headed over to her site. I think I am in love! Her Garden Blog Directory is extensive and will keep me busy for days checking out all the blogs. She also has links and resources for various topics. The most timely for me is her Cottage Gardening Links and Resources . I was planning on spending some time this winter researching cottage gardening for a new Cottage Garden I will create next spring. There is also a highly readable journal authored by seven gardeners in zones 3 through 5. If you haven't visited Cold Climate Gardening before, it is definitely worthwhile setting aside some time to explore this informative site.

Remember I was bringing my camera to work to post photos while my home PC was being repaired? I took some of those photos and made a slide-show for my office computer. Now, every time I step away from my desk and my screen saver goes on, my co-workers are treated to pictures of my garden. I'm such a show-off!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Great Foxglove Experiment

The Great Poppy Experiment was such a success early in the growing season, that I am now conducting The Great Foxglove Experiment. I haven't been able to get foxglove seeds to germinate for the simple reason that I have been planting them at the wrong time. I had been planting them in May when I planted my other seeds. The seed packet says to plant them in late summer. When is late summer? August? September? North Country Maturing Gardener put sowing seeds for biennials and perennials on her list of chores for July. That doesn't sound like late summer to me. So I decided to be guided by Mother Nature.

The mystery plant in the New World garden appeared to be some kind of digitalis. I am allowing it to go to seed. Any resulting plants will be moved into the Semi-Shady garden. The space where it is now is going to be turned into a Cottage Garden next year. I kept a careful eye on it. Sure enough, here it is the last week in July and the first pods have turned brown and started to release their seeds. Kudoes to you, North Country Maturing Gardener!

I have two packets of seed for Wild Foxglove. They are supposed to be purple with a few whites. Perfect for the Purple Garden and the new Wildflower Garden. The new packet went into the Purple Garden and the older one went into the Wildflower Garden. I had good germination from old seeds of lupines and wild columbine. Like Mother Nature, I simply broadcast the seeds into the beds. The directions on the seed packet were to plant the seeds 1/8" deep, but other sources recommend surface sowing and claim the seeds need light to germinate.

I am thrilled to report that the hosta I brought home from Rutgers Gardens has finally developed a flower stalk! All the other hostas in my town have been in bloom for the past week. I was hoping that it was merely the shock of being transplanted that was delaying it and I was right. I believe the rule of thumb is that transplanting anything delays blooming by at least a week.

More petunias have appeared. A second, bright pink, one is blooming close to the first, bright purple, one in the New World Garden. A bright pink petunia has also appeared in the Medieval Garden. I don't know where they are coming from. As far as I have seen, no one in my immediate neighborhood has been growing petunias.

Monday, July 25, 2005

It's a jungle out there!

I don't have air conditioning, so I've spent the past few days sleeping during the heat of the day and working on my computer at night when it has been cooler. It's back up and running better than ever. Instead of installing those last few programs, I took some time out yesterday morning to see what's been going on in the gardens this past week while I've been wrestling with the PC. A lot, it turns out, especially weeds. I worked from 7 AM to 12 PM weeding and deadheading and there is still more to do.

The annuals are loving all this hot weather. The Aztec sunflowers are gigantic and have started to bloom. It's fun to watch the flowers follow the sun across the yard.

Right next to them and much shorter is the balsam, a popular bedding plant around 1900. These are pink and red ones, but there are also purple flowers.

In the same bed is cleome, Rose Queen, listed in an 1836 catalog.

And one more picture of a hollyhock. I love the intense colors. This has to be a close-up because of the messy composter in the background. You can just see some of the gigantic weeds I cut down from amongst the Scarlet Runner beans and sunflowers. I thought I might have to use a machete.

The Purple Coneflowers have been amazing this year. I can't get a good photo of the ones I grew from seed because the petals have been chewed by Japanese beetles. The other clump was a single that was given to me when I moved in ten years ago. It stayed a single for years during the drought conditions. It's only the past few wetter years that it has begun to expand and bloom more profusely.

The Black-Eyed Susans are in full bloom. Everywhere. I find them all over. Since they seem to be able to grow anywhere, whenever I have a spot where nothing else will grow, I transplant some Black-Eyed Susans to that spot.

And last, but certainly not least, this morning the first Heavenly Blue morning glory vine bloomed. They are so blue they don't look real.

These are actually growing on my neighbor's side of the fence. These are the nice neighbors who saved my rosebush when they cut down their holly. I don't think the men who do their lawn realized these are flowers. They have been hacking off the trailing ends of the vines from the top of the fence. Obviously, it hasn't hurt them a bit!

A Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly has been sampling my flowers. He is much shyer than the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail so I haven't been able to get near enough to him to get a picture. Here's one from enature.com :

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tropical New Jersey

The remnants of Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Tropical Depression Dennis blew through New Jersey on Sunday. It had started raining before I left work Sunday morning. My commute was uneventful with light rain and intermittent sunshine. I took some photos of the garden when I got home and then headed off to bed. When I got up seven hours later, it was pouring rain and most of the county was flooded. I was fortunate again when I left for work at 9:00 PM. Dennis had also left and the rain was over.

With much trepidation, I checked for storm damage in the gardens when I got home Monday morning. There was none because there had been no wind, only rain. The only casualty was my garden gnome. Remember that big patch of dirt he stands in?

The rain came down so hard, it splashed mud on him literally from head to toe! Dennis was followed by a tropical air mass. It feels like a steambath. I'm suffering from the excessive heat and humidity, my long-haired cat is suffering, and apparently, the squirrels are suffering too. I looked out my backdoor Monday evening and saw a squirrel draped across the top of a fence. I took a quick picture through the screen and then went out to see if he was okay.

I've never seen a squirrel sprawled like that with his feet and tail hanging off the fence. I don't know if he was tired or just hot, but when I went outside he nimbly hopped up and fled up the tree.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wildlife in the Garden

Sabine was wondering if she should move her birdbath. It sits out in the open in full sun. She says no birds ever use it. I actually did research on the placement of birdbaths once. All the so-called "experts" say birdbaths should be placed in the open so predators (such as cats) cannot use vegetation to sneak up on the birds. Birds don't fly well when their feathers are wet. They need to be able to see predators in time to make their getaway. So Sabine is doing everything right.

I, on the other hand, am doing everything wrong. My birdbath sits in a shady corner surrounded by plants that a cat could easily use as cover to sneak up on it. Even the fence that surrounds it is no help because a cat could easily climb it to get at any bird that was perching there. And they do perch there, waiting to use the birdbath. It is in constant use. I refill it every day. The neighbors think I am being concientious about standing water and mosquitoes but the truth is that the birds splash most of the water out of it every day. There is even a robin that I swear has OCD. He will splash around in the water, then perch on the edge and preen his feathers. When he finds a spot that he missed, he hops back into the bowl and splashes some more. Perch, preen, splash. Perch, preen, splash. Over and over again. He has to be the cleanest robin in the neighborhood.

Every once in a while I click on "Who Links Here". Last night I was pleasantly surprised to find several blogs linking me that I was unaware of. Thank you! I have reciprocated. I'm always looking for good gardening blogs so I did some reading. There seems to be one universal truism about gardeners. We care not just about the plants in our gardens, but also the wildlife that make their homes there. Sabine recently wrote about a magical moment with a hummingbird . Kerry, of Kerry's Garden , wrote at length about handraising baby rabbits orphaned in her strawberry patch and The Garden Keeper, of A Garden by the Ruins near Narberth , wrote of his own magical experience witnessing the maiden flights of some fledgling chickadees .

What's blooming now?

Candy Striped Zinnias in the New World Garden. Not exactly heirlooms, but fond memories from my childhood. According to Burpee, they are red stripes on white flowers so I'm not sure what happened to this one:

My hollyhocks have not done well this year. I don't know if it is because I moved them or that they just don't like their new location.
A little blurry, but I like the color. Maroon with a hint of red. These are not the black hollyhocks. The morning glories have started to bloom.

This is a Grandpa Ott morning glory. If you don't know the story already, there actually was a Grandpa Ott. He was originally from eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia I believe, and brought seeds for this morning glory with him when he came to America. Every time someone visited him, he would send them home with a handful of seeds. After his death, his granddaughter wanted to preserve these heirloom seeds. They sparked an interest in heirlooms for her and the famous Seed Savers Exchange was born. These are planted on either side of the door to my shed and not in the Purple Garden as you would imagine. Instead, there are Milky Way morning glories growing in the Purple Garden:

They reseed themselves all over the Purple Garden every year. And every year, I carefully transplant the seedlings back to trellis. But more and more keep popping up until I start to feel like the little Dutch boy trying to plug the leaky dike. By this time each year, I throw in the trowel and just let them ramble all over the garden.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Can't Stop the Music, er Posting

Okay, I lied. I'm posting from work WITH pictures. But that's only because I can't seem to stop taking pictures of my gardens. So I brought my camera to work tonight. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I'm going out on a limb and post some pictures of my "landscape". Please leave the room if you cannot contain your laughter. Sarcasm is also not appreciated. I get enough of that from my neighbors.

Ahem. I live in a Cape Cod (not nearly as nice as Kasmira's ) so my "back door" is on the side of my house. This is what I see when I walk out my back door:

These are my oldest gardens, virtually unchanged since they were planted eight to ten years ago. Here's a closer look:

The Cosmos Garden:

From right to left: the Japanese iris that always blooms last, purple coneflowers that were given to me when I moved in (Kasmira, they were a single like yours, did nothing during the drought years if I could get one flower I considered it a good year, but the past few wet years they have begun to multiply and bloom beautifully) then pinks interplanted with Bachelor's Buttons, Queen Ann's Lace, Cosmos and Cleome, Shasta Daisies that were purchased as a plant, Black-Eyed Susans that were also purchased as a plant and have become a real nuisance, then the Apothecary Rose and Harrison's Yellow.

Here's the Shade Garden. I should call this one "What's Wrong With This Picture?" Can you guess? Look closely.

If you are wondering what Liatris are doing in a shade garden, you guessed correctly. Liatris like full sun but can tolerate light shade. Except for a couple hours at dawn and in the early evening, these plants sit in deep shade all day. And they are doing great! They multiply and bloom every year. I got them eight or nine years ago when a friend's son was selling perennials to raise money for something. I signed up for half a dozen liatris thinking it was half a dozen roots. It was actually half a dozen BAGS of them. I had liatris coming out of my ears! I planted them literally all over the yard in all kinds of conditions. Gradually they all died out except these. You can see by the huge bare spot occupied by the gnome what trouble I have finding things that will grow here. The weedy things around the birdbath are scraggly Lily of the Valley and three hellebores that are actually doing quite well. I have ordered more. I've started adding ferns hoping they will like it here. I don't know what kind of hosta that is. I got it when I attended a gardening class this spring. It's much too big for this garden but I hate to move it because it is doing so well. I'm hoping that when the ferns grow, it won't seem so out of proportion.

The butterfly bush started to bloom a couple of days ago. It didn't take long for the first butterfly to show up:

I think this is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. I couldn't get a good shot of him because the wind was moving the branch and he was opening and closing his wings.

Odds and Ends

First a quick update on my favorite neighborhood garden. I drove past it again today and noticed that all is not lost. There are Black-Eyed Susans and a small hydrangea blooming and what appear to be some annuals planted in a corner that the homeowners must have purchased somewhere. Not as dazzling as in the spring, but a definite improvement.

I also noticed that I never posted pictures of my Shasta daisies. I love daisies. They are my favorite flowers. In fact, I have to be careful when I am choosing seeds and planning my gardens that I don't have all daisy-like flowers. I do try to vary the flower forms in each bed.

The Shasta daisies in the Purple Garden, as mentioned previously, were grown from seed. The past few years, they have really taken off. The Shasta daisies in the Cosmos Garden were purchased as a plant probably eight or nine years ago. I have tried unsuccessfully to divide this bunch several times over the years, but the divisions always die on me. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

And finally, on a personal note, I may be taking a break from posting or posting from work with no pictures. My PC announced tonight that its hard drive is failing. I panicked about losing all my digital photos and ran to get my laptop and a crossover cable and . . . sorry, this is getting too geeky, isn't it? Sorry! How about: I copied all of my documents and pictures onto my laptop until I can get a proper backup going. Then I have to replace the hard drive and start rebuilding my computer. It's time consuming and a real pain. I'm not looking forward to this.

I grew this one from seed.

This was purchased as a plant many years ago and desperately need dividing.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Season-long Color in the Garden

Reading other gardening blogs, I'm discovering that I don't plan my gardens like other people do. I don't take the landscape into consideration. I don't plant for "views" or worry about which colors go together or which plants look good next to each other. I am more interested in the flowers themselves. If they have an interesting history, even better. Other than trying to plant the taller ones at the back of the beds and the shorter ones in front, I don't really have other considerations. Except one. I must have something blooming at all times during the growing season.

One of the very few things I like about living in New Jersey is the long growing season. I think I've said that over and over again. I grew up north of here where it is not unheard of to have snow in May and the first killing frost is in September. Here in New Jersey, I start looking for snowdrops to bloom at the end of February and I always have a few flowers still toughing it out at Thanksgiving.

Gardening is becoming more and more popular making my drives through town fun. I love looking at other people's gardens to see what they've planted, what's working and what's not working. When I see flowers that are particularly striking, when I come home and do a little research, I can usually find an heirloom variety to try.

One yard has captivated me all spring. So much so, that I have actually driven out of my way to go by it every few days. The homeowners have done what I would like to do. Their entire front yard is a garden. They had drifts of Dames Rocket, dozens of foxgloves. I couldn't wait to see what they had planted for summer bloom.

Nothing, as it turned out. I have been bitterly disappointed as the spring flowers went to seed and nothing replaced them. Now the once lovely yard looks like an abandoned, weedy lot. I wish I had taken pictures this spring. I wish I had the courage to knock on their door and beg them to throw some seeds in the yard for summer.

I'm so glad that my own garden continues to bloom. I'm glad that I have started to plant lilies and poppies to bridge the gap between the spring flowers and the summer annuals. I'm glad that as each plant finishes blooming, another takes its place. There is always something new going on.

And some surprises. I found a petunia in the New World Garden. I haven't planted petunias for years. This year, I did try some heirloom petunia seeds in the front of the house but none in the back. This one must be courtesy of my feathered friends.

Petunia surprise! Sometimes it pays to not weed.

Morning Glory climbing with Scarlet Runner Beans

Monday, July 11, 2005

Not Much Gardening Going On

Not much gardening going on. Pouring rain, searing heat, pouring rain, searing heat. Great for the garden, not good for the gardener. Plus I've been distracted with my camera. Sabine over at Sabine's Garden pointed out the macro function on my digital camera to me and I have been experimenting with it. I was finally able to get a shot of the Fairy rose flower showing the exquisitely tiny petals. Then I realized that there is nothing in the picture indicating scale so you can't appreciate how small it is. Oh, well.

And now for my "Oopses of the Month". . .

I wasn't expecting the Fairy rose to bloom this year, so I transplanted a lot of balsam into that bed to hide both the Fairy and the General Jacqueminot bushes. Great idea! The balsam has grown up and is successfully hiding all the wonderful flowers on the Fairy rose.

Last winter when I carefully planned and mapped out the New World Garden, I was careful to plant the Aztec sunflowers in front of the Cempoalxochitl marigolds which are taller but I 've noticed that the sunflowers seem to be growing much faster than the marigolds. Tonight I took a look at the seed packages (I'm learning to save things for just these types of occasions) and discovered that the sunflowers grow to be 6' and the marigolds only 4' to 5'. I have no idea where I got the idea that the sunflowers were shorter.

This last "oops" isn't really my fault. The first time I planted pumpkins many years ago in the garden that became the New World garden, the vines grew out of the bed and onto the lawn which I didn't mind because it meant less mowing. Last year and this year, the pumpkin vines are growing in the opposite direction and climbing the fence. I didn't know that pumpkin vines could climb fences! And it is the fence belonging to the infamous neighbors who don't allow me to grow anything on "their" fence so I have to keep detaching the vines from the fence. It's a battle that goes on all summer between me and the vines.

I'm sending out a big "Thank you" to Mia, the Nature Nut for suggesting I deadhead my pinks to encourage them to bloom longer. I did and they did. Thanks, Mia! It's just what the Semi-Shady Garden needs, a little color, because it has mainly spring flowers in it. Normally, there are no flowers again until fall when the chrysanthemum blooms.

The Fairy rose. The blossom is 1" in diameter.

Ipswich Pinks, take two!

First Calendula blossom

Pumpkins climbing the fence. Boy, do I need to weed!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Attack of the Giant Weeds

We are back in the heat and humidity with afternoon thunderstorms. And now we are also expecting more tropical storms from the Gulf. All of this rain has been wonderful for the gardens. And the weeds. Seems that's all I do, day after day, is pull weeds. They are huge. They have also been hiding some nice surprises.

I had tried to grow Johnny Jump Ups last year in what is now the New World Garden. A few germinated. Some of those survived the winter and bloomed this spring. As I am clearing out the giant weeds, I am finding a dream come true. Lots and lots of little seedlings. Now the seedlings are blooming having been given the chance to grow once the weeds are cleared away. I'm hoping to be able to spread them out for lots of color next spring.

Another surprise was in the Wild Flower Garden that I created at the last minute. I had seen lupines growing but when I weeded out that patch, I found wild columbine seedlings. More color for next spring.

Even the poppies have surprised me. Along with the usual orange, red and pink, there have been a few with white edges and I even found one that is a double. Ditto the nasturtiums with multi-colored flowers in addition to the usual solids.

What's blooming now? A new flower for me, Cottage Red marigold. Burpee describes it as: "An unusual mariold discovered in Mexico. A loose, informal, tall bush marigold with clear red flowers". It should have been planted in the New World Garden, but for some reason, I used it as a filler along the edge of the Holly Garden. It's very pretty and very delicate. I will be growing this one again.

The first balsam is blooming. It usually reseeds itself and I add some new purchased seed each year to fill in the area. I didn't need to this year. In fact, I have been transplanting it into a bed in the front of the house because I have too many plants.

The Scarlet Runner Beans are blooming lustily. And climbing their absurdly long poles. Remember this picture from Memorial Day? The vines have reached the tops of the poles which are the height of my neighbor's garage and are still growing!

Sadly, the Purple Coneflowers that I grew from seed and waited three years for them to bloom are under attack from Japanese Beetles. The beetles are chewing up the petals as they open. This is the first time in years that I have had a problem with Japanese Beetles. Normally, I am the only one who doesn't have a problem because I invite birds into my yard with feeders and a birdbath. They usually eat all the grubs before they have a chance to mature into adults. I'm not sure why that didn't happen this year. I have more birds than ever.

And just for fun, I took a picture of a toadstool that was growing in the Purple Garden. The next day it was gone! Who ate it? The bunny? A squirrel?

An unusual poppy

Another unusual poppy

Yet another unusual poppy (yawn)

Ruffles have ridges!

A double!


Cottage Red Marigold


Scarlet Runner Beans

It's hard to see in this picture, but the vines have reached the tops of the poles.

Japanese Beetles feasting on my coneflowers

Toadstool hiding under the sage. The next day, it was gone.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Acorn Alert

A happy and safe Fourth of July to everyone celebrating. Enjoy the nice weather while you can. I walked out my kitchen door this morning to find my porch and driveway littered with acorns. Every time the wind blows, more rain down. I'm hoping the oak tree is predicting a lot of snow rather than extreme cold for this coming winter. I don't mind snow. Shovelling it is good exercise and while I don't like driving in it, I can do it quite well. It's also good insulation for the garden. Extreme cold, on the other hand, makes me miserable and is hard on the plants.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Be careful what you wish for. The weather gods heard my complaints and have now given me a choice, either blistering heat or pouring rain. Since I can't tolerate the heat, I am learning to garden in the rain. My neighbors must think I have taken leave of my senses. Actually rain is a good time to transplant. I am still moving things around and discovering what doesn't like to be moved around.

Calendulas do not like to be transplanted. Too bad because I have a bumper crop of them from seed I planted this spring. The seedlings are much too close together and there is plenty of room in the Yellow/Orange garden to spread them out. I transplanted about a dozen as an experiment three days ago. They are still drooping. The Tri-Colored Daisies do not mind being transplanted. They were being overshadowed by the innumerable calendulas and a branch from a Blaze rose. I moved them to a more open spot in the bed where they should get a lot more sun. They look quite happy in their new neighborhood. In the same bed, the Persian Carpet zinnias have begun to bloom.

Right next door is a very pretty grouping. I used to plant nasturtiums, Double Dwarf Jewel Mix, an heirloom variety, in the Yellow/Orange garden. They did so-so. This year when I enlarged the beds, a large space was created in front of the daylilies. I planted the nasturtiums in that space to fill it and to add color when the daylilies had finished blooming. The nasturtiums germinated better and grew better than they ever have before. And now they have begun to bloom while the daylilies are still blooming creating a lovely spot of color. I am still puzzled as to why just a few feet made such a difference.

The Green Garden has been markedly unsuccessful this year. The green (which looks more white) miniature rose has been the lone bloomer. The lettuce I planted got to be about 1" tall and stopped growing. Only about three green zinnias germinated. The Hens and Chicks did only slightly better. On a happier note, I have a lot of Green Apple columbine seedlings so next spring I should have lots of green columbines. And the Bells of Ireland germinated and has been growing well. It doesn't seem to mind being transplanted so I have been able to spread out the seedlings that were crowded.

My biggest surprise was the Fairy rose which produced its first flower! I've never seen one in person, only in pictures. I wish I had a better camera so I could get a better picture of it. It is incredibly small, only about the size of my thumbnail. It has perfect miniature petals that don't even look real. Unfortunately, it has no scent.

I have been rejoicing over the Zephirine Drouhin. A few weeks ago, I was doing a Happy Dance when it began to finally sprout some leaves. Then one morning I noticed something had chewed all the leaves off. At first I thought it would just sprout some more leaves, but it did nothing and I was sure (again) that it was dead. I don't know if it has been the heat or just a tough old heirloom's determination, but all of a sudden it has sprouted leaves and branches. Every day there are more. I think it's going to be okay.

Daylilies and Nasturtiums


Persian Carpet Zinnia

The Fairy

Zephirine Drouhin and morning glories