A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bragging on My Roses

Can you tell why this is my favorite time of year?

The hose cart lives in that spot because Mme. Plantier completely covers the faucet. I have an "extension" hose running from the faucet to the cart.

Let's take a closer look . . .

Baronne Prevost. Can you say "yummy"?

Mme Plantier has been beaten down repeatedly by all the rain we have had. Normally she reaches all the way up to my kitchen window.

Still covered with blossoms despite the rough handling.
It's really too bad you can't also enjoy the incredible fragrance from both rosebushes.

The Blaze (red) rosebush has very little fragrance. . .
. . . but it's still incredibly beautiful.

Bad lighting, but I love this picture of the two bushes along the back fence.

Morning light is much more flattering.

Looks like velvet.

More pictures soon. Both The Fairy and La Reine Victoria are budded.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Weirdness Chronicles 2006, Chapter Four

Ignore the ragged grass and weeds for a moment and look closely at the gap between the primroses. It's been there for a decade. This is my first garden at this house. My original intention was to outline the edge of the bed with primroses but every single one that I have planted in that gap has died. I've tried plants from different sources to no avail. Primroses will grow quite well on either side of the gap but not in the gap.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Planting the Display Gardens - Day 2

Not as many photos today for a number of reasons the most important of which is that I didn't stay as long because I am working tonight and needed to get a nap in this afternoon. The other reasons were that I was helping to unload flats of flowers and I was offloading mulch from a large truck into wheelbarrows which I then wheeled to the beds being mulched. Along the side of the road where the truck was parked were these lovely columbine:

Siberian iris blooming in a perennials bed in the display gardens:
An "artsy" shot of the iris:
The process was the same as yesterday. The beds were marked with spray paint. The beds that were worked on today were the year and theme beds. This is the theme bed. The theme this year is "The Spirit of the Gardens" so the word "spirit" was traced out . . .
. . . and then planted with flowers . . .
. . . then mulched and watered.
The bed in the lower left corner of the above picture is shown below:
Unfortunately, I had to leave before the year bed was planted. I will have to get pictures of that one another time.

This is the lady that makes it all happen:

In addition to her job as the Volunteer Coordinator for Rutgers Gardens, she is a certified Horticultural Therapist and very active in the American Horticultural Therapy Association. She is also a Master Gardener, a member of the Steering Committee for the Middlesex County Master Gardeners, chairperson of the Horticultural Therapy sub-committee where she is responsible for coordinating all of the Master Gardeners volunteering in various hort therapy programs in the county and the chairperson of the Newsletter sub-committee overseeing the publication of Middlesex County Master Gardener newsletter. She is the one who recruited me to work on it.

The most amazing part is not just how she manages to juggle all of her responsibilities but that she is always cheerful and smiling, even when she is most stressed. She is truly an inspiration.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Planting the Display Gardens - Day 1

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional planting time for the display gardens at Rutgers Gardens. All volunteers are encouraged to come out to help plant the AAS beds and committee beds. Individual plots that have been "adopted" by volunteers can be planted any time after they have been edged and roto-tilled. Of course, I brought my camera. I definitely take better pictures when I am not sleep deprived.

I've stopped bragging about my columbines after seeing these:

And why is it that green, green, green is so much more attractive here than in my yard?
This is my plot. I'm in big trouble. I have almost nothing to plant in it. Beatrice, the greenhouse cat was on the DL for most of the spring. No one knows exactly what happened to her. She disappeared for a few days and when she returned, she was badly injured. She was confined to an office while she was healing and was unable to perform her duties keeping down the rodent population in the greenhouses. Mice ate a lot of my seeds and seedlings. My plan for a Fairy Garden are out. I'm going to have to go to Plan B. I'm not sure what that is yet. I'm going to worry about that next week which is the deadline for planting the Adopt-a-Plot plots.
The pond has waterlilies and goldfish in it. They stay there year-round. I don't know how the fish survive the winter.
The volunteers who garden here are incredibly creative. This gardener has found a way around the 3 foot (1 meter) height limitation. They have constructed a 3' high framework to grow passionflower vines on! You will see a lot of bamboo construction. There is a bamboo forest on the grounds. Any bamboo that has been cut down is available for use in the gardens. The bed in the background is a committee bed that will be planted tomorrow. It always has the year spelled out in flowers.
At the back of the display gardens is a fenced area with vegetable beds. I was amazed at how attractive they are.

This is the herb bed that I have been assigned to as my "committee" bed. It has four sections: scent, culinary, medicinal and industrial. This is the scent area. The white flowers are valerian. I don't know what the large bush is.
I'm not sure which section this is. I'm still learning my way around. Those are mints in the clay pipes used as containers. The iris is oris root.
This is the other half of the herb bed (along the fence). I know that in the corner are culinary herbs. I'm not sure what the other ones are.
The woman who heads up the volunteer program has been doing this for so many years that she has it down to a science. First, the flowers that are being planted that day are brought out from the greenhouse and placed in a shady area.
These are just a very few of the flats that were planted. She also provides refreshments for the volunteers.
The basket in the lefthand corner is the seagrass basket that I bought at the garden show in February to carry my tools in. It holds a lot more than tools. I carry my tools, sunscreen, camera, extra batteries, jacket (for cool mornings), garden shoes, and plants in it. Sometimes all at the same time! Definitely the best $20 I have ever spent.

Next, the beds are marked with spray paint.

The flowers are placed in their parts of the design.
And the planting begins. Planting hundreds of flowers one at a time can seem daunting at first.
But when you have a bunch of people working together, it goes very quickly.
Before you know it, the bed is finished. The space in the foreground was left deliberately. A container will be placed there.
Then the beds are mulched . . .
. . . and watered.
Today, the AAS beds were all planted. Tomorrow, and Monday if necessary, the committee beds such as the year will be planted.

Before leaving, I took a quick walk down to the decorative grasses beds that I help plant last year. I can't believe how beautiful they have become.
A year ago, this was just a patch of dirt. Now the garden looks like it has been here forever.
I love revisiting all the places I have worked on. For me, it is one of the best parts of volunteering at the gardens.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Roses, Containers, Poodles and Rabbits

Be warned! I'm going to be boring you with lots and lots of pictures of my roses. Not many of them are blooming thanks to both the Great Rose Migration which became the Great Rose Massacre and the new roses that I just planted which are still settling in and probably won't bloom until next year. Fortunately, the few that are blooming are more than making up for the losses:

Okay, here's another one for the Weirdness Chronicles. The rootstock of this bush blooms every year. In August. I checked last years' entries. August 12. This year, May 26. BIG difference.

Baronne Prevost, which has never done well in this spot because it doesn't get enough light but I don't dare move it after the fiasco this spring, is literally covered with blossoms.
It just amazes me how they go from this:
To this:
And finally, to this:
The Siberian iris is blooming. It's such a contrast to the huge, heavy, bearded iris.
Ooh, this one is really pretty!
I planted a white Bleeding Heart this spring. Surprisingly, it has begun to bloom:
I was sure that I would be able to finish digging the new bed in the front yard. I was planning on an early start yesterday because I had to drop my cat off at the vet for surgery at 8:30 AM. I dug and dug and dug and still didn't finish by the time I had to clean up so I could pick him up at 4:00 PM. I could have dug a little longer. They decided to keep him overnight. When I called this morning, he was running a fever and to stay for the day so back out I went. I dug and dug and dug. I was literally within a few feet of finishing when it began to rain.

I wasn't upset by this. I had containers to plant. I don't normally do containers. I haven't had any luck with them in the past but I have done so well with my new houseplants, the two jades, the snake plant and also a kalanchoe that I rooted after brushing up against it and breaking off a piece. I know what you are thinking, but it really WAS an accident.

First I planted my new pot with catnip seeds. Then I planted the chocolate mint. Let's keep that between us, okay? Last week when we were planting our herb bed, I don't know how it happened, but a couple of pieces of chocolate mint somehow ended up in my basket and came home with me. I couldn't just let them die, so I potted them up. I also brought home some lavender. That was deliberate. We had asked for lavender for the herb bed and been given three types: Provence, Grosso and Lady. There was way too much Lady, so my partner and I each took a piece home. My lavender collection is growing by leaps and bounds! It's also destined for that new bed which is still not finished. YES! I have another homeless plant!

Lastly, I planted two containers for my front steps. I'm desperate for color in the front of my house. The hydrangeas aren't blooming yet and the asters won't bloom until fall. It's just green, green, green so I picked up some petunias and celosia when I was at the grocery store. I crammed as many into the pots as I could but they look sparse. I'm told I can pinch back the petunias to make them bushier. Maybe that will help.

By 6:00 PM, I was finally able to bring my cat home. I discovered that in order to get his IV's in, they had shaved his front legs. I've been teasing him that he looks like a poodle:
Can you tell that he is mortified? That rug is filthy for two reasons. One, I've been too busy gardening to do much housework and two, I've been collecting cat hair for the gardens. Last year I lost a lot of tulip bulbs to a bunny that has taken up residence in my yard. This year I have spread a lot of cat hair in the beds and haven't lost a single bulb! It seems to deter the squirrels also. I haven't lost as many seeds and seedlings as I usually do.

The bunny really likes my gardens though he isn't eating much. I see him every day:
When I shoo him away, he never goes far:
Isn't he fat and sassy? I'm used to little scrawny wild rabbits. He's so big and fat, he looks domesticated. And as you can see, he's pretty tame. Someone must have told him I have a soft spot for animals. Even the ones that eat my plants!