A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Monday, February 27, 2006

First Crocus

Yesterday morning when I came home from work, I spotted the first crocuses of the season. Yellow, of course. I believe this is the earliest I have ever seen them. Usually crocuses don't make an appearance until March.

This is not a very good picture. It is difficult to get a good picture of this bunch. They are in front of my house in what used to be the side of the front bed. Then the slab next to it got removed during a porch/sidewalk renovation. I can't get close to them now without walking on a whole lot of other stuff.

In the backyard, my Rip Van Winkle daffodils have started to come up. Also making an appearance are the Actaea daffodils that I planted last fall. I'm looking forward to those blooming. They are my favorite daffodils. In the Wildflower garden something is coming up, but I'm not sure what. Last fall I planted English bluebells and Golden Bells daffodils. I got very artistic when I planted them, tossing them into the bed and then planting them where they fell for a "natural" look. Since I've never grown either one, I don't know what the foliage looks like and since I don't know what got planted where, I have no clue what is coming up right now! If I had to guess, I would say they are the daffodils. I expect the bluebells to pop up about the same time as the hyacinths.

A huge disappointment has been the double snowdrops that I planted in the Green Garden. There has been no sign of them nor have I seen any telltale holes indicating that a hungry rabbit or squirrel has dug them up.

I am impatiently awaiting blossoms on the hellebores. They are not even budded!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Display Gardens

It took a little enlarging and a lot of White-Out, but I finally have the layout of the display gardens to share. The water garden is in the center and my plot is below and to the right, with the blue stripes (click on the diagram to enlarge it).
I don't have any dimensions because it has just been too cold to go out there and measure. The perennial bed that I worked on last spring is the long one on the left. At the top of the diagram, which is the back of the garden are the vegetable beds. They are surrounded by a thick line representing a fence. The herb bed that I have been assigned is on the left. It is split into two parts, A and B. I don't know why nor do I know yet what is planted there.

This year's theme is "The Spirit of the Gardens". Rutgers Gardens has a new director who has imbued a new spirit into the gardens. It's also supposed to reflect the spirit of the volunteers. Either way, it did nothing for me. So I turned it around to garden spirits. Fairies are what came to mind. Fairy gardens were popular in Victorian times. I will be planting a modern interpretation since I am restricted to annuals.

The one perennial I will be planting is a must-have: thyme. Thyme attracts fairies. Fairies are supposed to like roses, so I will have portulaca or moss roses. The rest of the flowers are just miniatures. Sweet alyssum, Thumbelina zinnias and miniature sunflowers. The sunflowers are supposed to be a sort of mini-forest. I even have a small gazebo planter in lieu of a regular fairy house. We are allowed space in the Floriculture greenhouses to start our seeds. The idea of starting zinnia and sunflower seeds in a greenhouse is just too funny! I always sow them directly in the gardens. Since there are official planting weekends, I suppose I will have to stifle my laughter and start my seeds inside so that I will have lovely flowers to plant in May like everyone else.

Giggle, giggle. . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Way back in April of last year when I first discovered Rutgers Gardens via a class on dividing perennials, one of the beds we worked on was in what they called "The Display Gardens". Well, there were beds laid out in a formal pattern, but there wasn't much of a display. The bed we were working on was one of two parallel outer beds that contained perennials (naturally), but the inner beds appeared to be completely empty. At the time, I thought it was strange. Shouldn't they also contain perennials or at least bulbs? What kind of "display" was there supposed to be?

I didn't get back to Rutgers Gardens until September when I took a class on garden photography. When we went out into the gardens to take pictures, one of the places we visited was the Display Gardens. They were spectacular, an absolute riot of color. And almost exclusively annuals which explained why they had been empty in the spring. I also discovered that there was a huge veggie plot in the back. I was still puzzled. I couldn't figure out what the design was supposed to be. Normally a formal garden has a very formal design of some sort. This one had none. Each bed was different. Different colors, different flowers, different layout.

The mystery was finally solved when I went back at the end of September for my orientation as a new volunteer. The Donald B. Lacey Display Garden is run on a system known as "Adopt-a-Plot". Each bed is "adopted" by one or more volunteers who are responsible for planting and maintaining it. The only requirements are that they incorporate the annual theme, use only annuals and plant nothing that is more than three feet high in the flower beds. I remember stopping dead in my tracks when I heard this. Anyone could have a garden? Where do I sign up?

I signed and returned my contract in January. At that time, I also learned a little more about the Display Gardens. There are individual flower beds and veggie beds and committee flower beds and veggie beds. The committee beds are maintained by several volunteers and are planted according to a definite plan. There is one that spells out the year. There's a butterfly garden, an herb garden, a dried flower garden, etc. You are assigned your individual bed and committee bed by the Volunteer Coordinator. That's the same nice lady who got me involved in the newsletter for the Master Gardeners.

We had our first meeting tonight and received our information packets. I was sure because it was my first time doing this that I would be assigned a tiny plot way in the back of the garden. To my surprise, I have a plot right in front and next to the central water garden. How funny is that? I have a fixation about water in the landscape! My committee bed is the herb garden. Also exciting since I read the book on herbs in December. I am planning on incorporating more herbs in my gardens at home in addition to the herb garden I am doing as part of my Master Gardener training.

I'm working on scanning a copy of the garden diagram into my computer. It has everyone's names on the beds which I want to delete before publishing it here.

Are you convinced that I have totally lost my mind? I'm going to have gardens in three different towns this year! My own in Middlesex, my plots at Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick and the herb and veggie beds for the Master Gardener program in North Brunswick. It's the gardens at Rutgers Gardens that I am most excited about. I find the thought of having my own garden in a public garden where thousands of people will see and (hopefully) admire it just thrilling.

Monday, February 20, 2006

NJ Flower & Garden Show (Part 2)

Continuing on my westward odyssey, my next stop was "Walk in the Orient":

At first, I was amazed that someone had done such a great job raking all the sand (how do they do that?). Then I realized that no one was walking on it:
They were all respectfully staying on the pathways. Amazing!

Then it was back to Italy. Weren't we just in Tuscany? Has Rome moved? Geography certainly has gotten much more confusing than when I studied it.

Yes, it was that boring. I'm not even going to comment on this next one. Tacky, tacky, tacky.

The "Influence of the American Garden" had an actual lawn which I wasn't able to get a picture of due to the crowds.

I did have a quibble with the azaleas:
I'm originally from upstate NY. I never saw azaleas until I moved south.

This garden screamed "New Jersey" to me, not America.

On to the flower arrengements from the Garden Club of New Jersey. I enjoyed them so much more than last year. Last year, the arrangements were very creative but the flowers looked tortured. This year, the arrangements struck me as much more natural.

There was whimsy:

There was WOW!:
There was How'd they do that????

New this year (or maybe I didn't notice them last year) were hanging arrangements:

There were arrangements that just made me smile:

My favorite was the fairy houses:
Someone managed to get an entire "neighborhood" in one bowl:

I'm already looking forward to next year's show.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

NJ Flower & Garden Show (Part 1)

This is going to be another one of those multi-part posts because I took so many pictures and it takes so long to upload them. Last year I went to the NJ Flower & Garden Show as a spectator. This year, I worked a shift at the Rutgers Garden booth, so I got in free. I thought I was smart to take the early shift and then have the rest of the afternoon to enjoy the show. Bad idea! The crowds were just incredible by the time I finished at 1:00 PM. I don't like crowds which is why I always go early to events. And just like last year, I came home with an odd purchase. Last year, it was a birdfeeder (which I have enjoyed tremendously). This year, it was a seagrass basket. Besides the fact that I love baskets, I need something to carry my tools in when I work at Rutgers Gardens. This is roomy, light, durable and can get wet. And only $20. I'll let you know at the end of the gardening season if this was a good purchase or not.

Now, on to the show. Please tell me, are people in NJ particularly rude or is it common all over for people to look straight at you, see that you have a camera aimed at a display and then walk directly in front of the camera, completely blocking your shot? Or even worse, walk in front of you and STOP!! I was so frustrated because I liked the gardens so much more this year than last. More plants! Less pavement!

I learned my lesson after the Longwood Gardens Christmas Tree fiasco and took pictures of the sign for each display garden. I'm a little confused about the theme. It had something to do with countries of the world, but there was also a Cape Cod garden, a Garden State garden and an urban garden. I know that there are a lot of new countries since I graduated from school but I'm pretty sure I would have heard about it if Cape Cod and New Jersey had become countries!

Rutgers Cook College did a garden for the first time. The theme was "Fiji":

It won first prize for Educational Design. I think it should have won for tallest garden:

I'm told they transported the bamboo on a 30' flatbed. Once they got it inside the hall, they had to turn off the lights directly over the display. I was actually stationed at this garden for a while and expected to answer the public's questions! I blogged about it on Garden Voices .

The next garden I visited was the Urban Garden:

Next up was "Rock the Kasbah". It was almost impossible to get a picture of this one. They had lights under glass stones. People were fascinated by it and filled the whole display.

I was really disappointed with the "Bulb Gardens of the Netherlands". It was pretty, but not terribly unique or exciting.

The Tuscan Garden was another very crowded one.

I loved this little boy playing in the fountain:
I think my favorite garden was "Les Jardins de la France".

After France, I headed back across the ocean to that new country, Cape Cod.
Do they surf on Cape Cod? The surfboards looked out of place to me.

The other new country:
I think what they were trying to accomplish here was a veggie/herb/flower garden. It just didn't gel for me.
Tomorrow, we will continue heading west to the Orient. Is it PC to refer to Asia as "the Orient"?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My Rose Orders

Last week, I placed my order for rosebushes from Jung's . After much agonizing, I decided to go along with my original plan and be extremely conservative. I only ordered two roses, Zephirine Drouhin (1868) and Seven Sisters (1817). I was pretty sure I would find more roses cheaply later in the season. While I was at it, I also ordered a Munstead Lavender. It was only $3.95 for a plant. Last year, I planted a Hidcote Lavender so I have effectively doubled my lavender collection! Then came the blizzard last weekend. . .

I shovelled out my driveway early in the day but my street didn't get plowed for hours. I couldn't go anywhere. So I went shopping. Online, of course. Michigan Bulb Co had sent me an email reminding me that I had a coupon for $20 off of a $40 order. I love half-price! I clicked over to their roses. Red Grootendorst (1918) $7.99. Pink Grootendorst (1923) $7.99. I may have math phobia, but even I realized that a $20 coupon meant free rosebushes! And they were buy 1, get 1 free! To make up the rest of the $40, I went to their peonies. I got a Sarah Bernhardt (thanks for introducing me to this one Sabine!) introduced 1906 and a Karl Rosenfeld, 1908. I already have a Festiva Maxima (1851) that I planted last fall. Four rosebushes and two peonies for $20. Hee, hee. I love blizzards!

The groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter, didn't he? I have more catalogs with $25 off $50 orders. . .

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Blizzard of '06

I actually had to work last night. Driving in to work wasn't bad at all. My normal 20 minute commute only took 40 minutes. I had allowed myself an hour. Then the boss called and said once I had finished up the critical stuff, I could leave. So, after the backups had finished and the network was up and running smoothly, I headed out the door a little after 1 AM. One and a half harrowing hours later, I made it home.

Here in Central New Jersey, we only got 12" to 18" (30.5 cm - 46 cm) of snow. This is what it looked like at my house:

This is my favorite picture. My doorbell. Here's the front of my house:

And my back porch, actually the side porch because I live in a cape:

I love the way snow makes interesting shapes when it drifts. Here are my recycling containers and my garbage can:

Remember the ugly green fence that my neighbors erected last summer? This is what it looks like today:

My original birdfeeder:

Here's my newer one. Those are juncoes, normally groundfeeders, on the fence.

The picture is blurry because I took it through my kitchen window. The groundfeeding station was covered with snow. I was going to wait until it stopped snowing before putting out more food. Then I saw the poor juncoes trying to eat from this feeder:

So I went out and threw birdseed on top of the snow. This is what my backyard looked like:
I don't know why it always looks so big in pictures. It's actually very small. My entire lot is only 50' by 100' (15m by 30m) so the backyard is maybe 1/3 of that?

I have more pictures but Blogger has been so uncooperative that it has taken me four days just to upload these few. I'm going to quit while I'm ahead. I'll post the rest of what I did during the blizzard on another day.