A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, December 29, 2005


The Burpee's catalog arrived today. In years past, this was a big event. Especially when they were publishing a separate catalog devoted exclusively to heirloom flowers and veggies. They no longer do that. Even sadder, each year they offer fewer and fewer heirlooms. This year, it appears that they are not offering any. I had to get out last year's catalog to check. The heirlooms are in this year's catalog, but the heirloom designation is not listed in the description. They are also offering fewer flower varieties. Some are missing completely. I want to try nicotiana this year. When I looked to see what Burpee was offering, there were none at all.

Ten years ago, my biggest seed order was Burpee. That has steadily shrunk to the point where this year, I probably won't order from them at all. I will be removing them from my list of heirloom seed sources on my side bar. I'm not sure what I'll be replacing them with. I'll have to see from whom I am ordering this year. The germination rate for Burpee seed has always been the best of all the places I ordered from. I'm going to start keeping better track of what I am ordering, from whom and the resulting germination and plant hardiness. I see spreadsheets in my future!

Friday, December 23, 2005

More Roses Than You Can Shake a Stick At!

I had planned on moving some of my roses and adding more roses next year. I had a pretty definite idea of what and where. Then Jung Quality Seeds catalog arrived today and I am back to the drawing board. They are offering an incredible number of heirloom roses at fabulous prices:

New Dawn, introduced 1930

Zephirine Drouhin, introduced 1868

Seven Sisters Rambler, introduced 1817

The Fairy, introduced 1932

Frau Dagmar Hartopp, introduced 1914

Therese Bugnet, introduced 1950

Hansa, introduced 1905

Blanc Double De Coubert, introduced 1892

I can narrow down my choices a tiny bit. I already own "The Fairy" and the "Zephirine Drouhin" that I planted last year under my bird feeder died a horrible death mercilessly chewed by squirrels so I was planning on replacing it but in another spot. I have always wanted a Seven Sisters Rambler because I love the idea of seven different colors on one bush.

It's gets more difficult after these choices. I probably should wait. There will be more catalogs and then in the spring I can usually find roses locally, sometimes in the strangest places. Remember, this past spring I found "The Fairy" and "General Jaqueminot" on a sale table in my local Drug Fair for $4.97 each. They are both growing nicely. I expect they will survive the winter with no trouble. In fact, "The Fairy" is one of the roses I plan on moving. It will be the centerpiece of a new cottage-style garden I am planning for the front of my house. I'm going to attempt to apply some of what I learned in the landscape design classes I took this past fall. It will involve digging up a significant amount of lawn so depending on what the weather is like in the spring, this garden may or may not get created. I still have beds that need widening in the backyard. I should finish them before I attempt any new projects.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Winter Reading

We had our Master Gardener midterm exam yesterday. It was more difficult than I anticipated, not to mention the fact that I had worked all night prior to the exam. I was so tired that I had difficulty recalling information. But I'm fairly sure I passed and that's all that matters. I came home to a box from Amazon.com, my Christmas gift to myself. It had apparently arrived the day before, but I didn't see it in the dark when I got up so it stayed out all night in the pouring rain. Luckily, Amazon.com packages their merchandise very well and the books I had ordered survived their ordeal in excellent shape.

During the winter when I can't garden outside, I like to garden in my mind. I spend the frigid months curled up with catalogs and books, dreaming and planning. One of the books I ordered, Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, is owned and highly recommended by several members of my Master Gardener class. When we were planning our herb beds, the instructor encouraged us to bring in books and catalogs to help. This book was on more desks than any other.

I've been browsing through it since yesterday. It is absolutely marvelous. It has in depth histories of many herbs (truly heirlooms!), cultivation instructions, uses, garden plans, crafts using herbs, dying information, healing with herbs, cooking with herbs and an extensive list of dangerous herbs. I'm sure there's more. I just haven't gotten to it. Rather than just using it as a reference, I will be reading this one cover to cover.

Another book I am hoping will be as good is being offered by Park's Seeds. It's called Success with Seed. It has pictures of the seeds, seedlings and mature plants for over 400 genera and species as well as germination information. I'm hoping this will be a huge help to me because I grow so many things from seed and try new things every year. Maybe this year I won't find myself staring at seedlings wondering if they are weeds or something that I planted! I'll order this when I place my seed orders in January.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Finally . . . The Big One!

The forecasters finally got it right. They were predicting 3 to 6 inches (7.5 cm - 15 cm) of snow for Central NJ overnight. I got at least that. Judge for yourself. This is what my birdbath looked like:

Luckily I got home from work before the plow came through so I was able to get my car into my driveway. After I finished shovelling, I checked the feeders. I felt terrible when I saw all the tracks. The snow had covered the seed that I throw on the ground for the groundfeeders. I should have tended to the birdfeeders before I shovelled out. I refilled everything and headed off to bed. I had to shovel out the end of the driveway when I got up this evening so I can get my car out to go to work tonight. It wasn't nearly as easy as this morning. The heavy, wet snow the plow piled into the end of my driveway had frozen. I found myself breaking it into pieces and throwing them rather than shovelling them.

I would still much rather be dealing with snow than extreme cold.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My New (Flower) Pot

Well, the big snowstorm was a whole lotta nuthin, at least in this part of New Jersey. South of us got clobbered, but we only got about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Still, I refilled the birdfeeders and spread more seed underneath before I left the house to buy my Christmas tree. When I returned, there were squirrels everywhere. On the fence, on my back porch, under the feeder. When I got out of the car, it was like a gray furry explosion as they raced for safety in the nearby trees.

Another storm is on its way for the end of the week. The weather forecasters promise this one will definitely produce more snow. My snow shovel is on my back porch in readiness. In the meantime, I'm trying to decide where to put my new pot.

I've been having the best time telling people: "I went to my girlfriend's house for Thanksgiving. She promised to send me home with leftovers. Instead, she gave me an empty flowerpot. Do you think she is trying to tell me something?" Actually, I'm glad she did. I don't need leftovers. I've been working hard at losing the weight I gained when I quit smoking. And I'm in the market for a big flowerpot.

It's for my latest attempt at growing catnip. I tried growing it from seed. The neighbor's cat rolled ecstatically in it until it was destroyed. A gardening friend sent me a mature clump. The neighbor's cat rolled ecstatically in it until it was destroyed. This past season, a few plants that had somehow survived tried to grow amongst the sage. The neighbor's cat either didn't find them or didn't consider them worth rolling in. They died a natural death from lack of light.

My third, and final attempt, at growing catnip is going to be in a pot. The theory is that the cat can't/won't roll ecstatically in it if it is off the ground and in a pot. Now that I have the pot, I just have to decide where to put it.

No, I don't think I like it against the gray stone of my front porch.

It does look a little better against the wood of my "rustic" back porch.

This is definitely the place. It belongs in the garden. It's a real beauty, isn't it? Almost forgot, "Disclaimer: The above photos were taken prior to the recent snowstorms. They are in no way indicative of the current weather conditions". Just in case anyone doubts that New Jersey maybe about to experience a quite rare white Christmas.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

First Snow

We had our first significant snowfall of the season last night. It was only two ro three inches (5 cm - 7.5 cm), but instead of melting in the warm sun the following day as it usually does at this time of year, the weather is cold enough that the snow is staying. I had wanted to do some more leaf raking on my days off this week. Instead, I will be putting the rake away and getting out the snow shovel.

When I got home from work this morning, I checked the birdfeeders to make sure they were full and spread seed, both birdseed and squirrel food under the feeder. The snow hides what is there from my hungry friends. I have to replenish after every snowfall. My efforts were rewarded. The juncos are back in town. I was gratified to see one of the Little Brown Birds snacking on the suet I had hung on the fence a few days ago.

Another storm predicted to dump even more snow on us is working its way up the coast. Looks like the dire predictions of a hard winter could be coming true. We don't normally get significant snowfalls until January. I don't mind. I would much rather have a lot of snow than a lot of cold.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Plant List for the Herb Garden

We have finalized our list of plants for our bed in the herb garden. My partner drew up a color coded diagram for the bed. I've been feeling guilty that she is doing all the work so I am happy to finally be able to contribute to our joint project. In addition to our diagram, we have to submit a list of plants with the scientific names, the common names and the number of each we will be using. I'm insisting on creating a spread sheet with our plant list as my (small) contribution. Here's our list:

Red Rubin Basil
Chocolate Mint
Gem Marigolds
Groso Lavender
Provence Lavender
Love in a Mist Alba
Love Lies Bleeding
Envy Zinnia

I had added garden sage, but my partner wants varigated sage. She is still researching possibilites. The basil has inspired me to try purple foliage plants in my own Purple Garden. I'm going to try the ruffled purple basil as a comparison to the Red Rubin to see which I like better. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the Love in a Mist turns out. I've never seen it in person. My partner grows it in her own garden and assures me that it is very attractive. The chocolate mint is prostrate. It's my stab at being artistic. The idea is for it to drape gracefully over the edge of the raised bed. Don't worry, I'll be posting pictures so you can laugh.