A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gardening Birds

When I had my sewer line replaced in 2002, the trench destroyed a good portion of my sidewalk leading to my driveway and the street. I decided that this was a good time to replace the crumbling concrete walks and porch and installed cobblestone. One slab that was lifted was never replaced. It became an extension of the garden in front on my house. Except that I couldn't seem to find anything that would grow there.

Finally, the birds took matters into their own hands (wings? beaks?) and planted goldenrod there. I loved the tall plants in that awkward corner. Last fall when I toured the Master Gardener herb gardens as part of the orientation, I saw Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate in person for the first time and promptly fell in love. I decided it would be the perfect plant for the front corner.

I tried to grow it from seed, but it is difficult to germinate so I bought a few plants from one of the Master Gardener plant sales. I needn't have bothered. The birds have decided to try hollyhocks this year:
I love the color they have chosen. It's dark enough to show up against the crappy white aluminum siding but colorful enough to stand out from the equally crappy blacktop of the driveway and ageing wooden porch. Most people have songbirds. I have gardening birds.

Monday, June 19, 2006

For Snappy . . .

. . . because I know how much he loves Busy Lizzies.

I've had such good luck with containers this year that I decided to drag out my old porch boxes. They're a little dirty, a little bent out of shape, but they will do. I bought these at the grocery store because I love the color. I bought some purple ones with white stripes for the other box, but they aren't nearly as attractive. They had been displayed in full sun. The foliage is sun-scorched and they are very leggy. My porch is very shady. It sits under my neighbor's oak tree. I'm hoping they will recover. I know that I shouldn't have bought them, but I liked them too much to pass them up.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Oh . . . Oh . . . Oh . . .

La Reine Victoria finally bloomed. I've never seen a rose like this outside of a Victorian painting. I didn't know that they actually existed. I had always thought they were a product of artistic license.

I keep running outside to look at it. And take pictures.

Yes, I know it needs weeding. I should, perhaps, weed THEN take pictures. But I've been too excited. The miniature green rose, although not very green, is also looking pretty.

As are the "mystery purple aster-like things that bloom in the spring and therefore can't be asters but look remarkably like them" (it's a good think no one has ever put me in charge of naming plants, isn't it?):

My poppy patch is looking great. Judging from the number of buds, it will be spectacular. I grew these from seed that I saved from last year from plants that germinated from free seed packets.

I noticed some interesting colors and petal forms:

I had what I thought was a great idea of growing hollyhocks along the side of the shed. They are tall enough and colorful enough to break up the large white expanse. Unfortunately, it looks like I will lose them all to rust:

My Nikko Blue hydrangeas have begun to bloom:

No, that is not a candidate for the Weirdness Chronicles. In January of 2002, I had my sewer line replaced which involved digging an enormous trench from the foundation of my house to the curb. The hydrangea on the left was uncermonious yanked from the ground and left with its roots exposed for almost a month in the middle of winter. I was sure that it had died but, having nothing to lose, replanted it when the trench was filled in. Amazingly, it was still alive. Barely. It was severely stunted. It has taken a few years for it to get settled back in and start to grow again. The soil it is growing in is from a different strata and must be a different pH creating the pink color. I'm just glad that it's still alive.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What's blooming now

My Madonna lily is just magnificent:

The green rose in the Green Garden is blooming up a storm. Unfortunately, it appears pink, rather than green!

The Blaze roses are still "ablaze".

When I bought this lily many years ago, it was advertised as a tiger lily. Now I know that it is not. But it's still lovely.

Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate

I planted eight astilbe in the front shade garden that I am renovating. Seven survived the squirrels. This is the first to bloom:

The red will be blooming soon:

La Reine Victoria is still keeping me in suspense:

My daylilies should be magnificent this year. Look at all the buds!

All th wind and rain we have had have taken their toll on my poor garden gnome:

Some people think that this is a good thing!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Plainsboro Preserve

The Middlesex County Master Gardners sponsored a field trip to the New Jersey Audubon Society's Plainsboro Preserve today. The trip included a bird walk and native plant tour. To make sure we met the minimum group size, the trip was opened up to Master Gardeners in other counties. We easily exceeded the quota with over 20 Master Gardeners from Middlesex, Monmouth and Mercer counties.

The preserve consists of 1,000 acres and 5 miles of trails. It is a place of incredible natural beauty.

I got into a little bit of trouble taking this photo. When I went off into the woods to get a shot of this wonderful tree, everyone followed me thinking I had spotted some kind of rare and unusual bird!

Have you been noticing the birdhouses? They are everywhere.

This is another photo that got me into trouble. The resident tree swallows decided that I was too close to their home. They flew out and dive bombed me!

This is the preserve's feeding station. The feeders are nearly empty because it was such a windy day, the seed would have been blown out of them. I'm definitely doing it right. I have all these kinds of feeders. Just not as many!

Because of the extremely windy conditions, we didn't see many birds. We did see other wildlife. The bass in the lake are HUGE because no fishing is allowed. There were butterflies everywhere.

Sorry about the poor quality of the photos. The conditions were less than ideal. Our guide pointed out a praying mantis egg case. That's his arm, not mine!

After all of the immaculately manicured lawns of suburbia, it was refreshing to see a beautiful wildflower meadow.
I was disappointed with the native plant tour. It consisted of native trees and shrubs from local nurseries planted around the Education Center. I would have much preferred to see native plants in their natural surroundings rather than artificially planted in a landscape.

Sweet Bay Magnolia:
Black Chokecherry:
Obligatory Group Shot:
Due to time constraints, we weren't able to explore hardly any of the trails. I'm definitely going to go back sometime for another look!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Photo of the Week

The straw foxglove are very difficult to photograph against the chainlink fence. I was trying to get a better shot of them, trying different angles when I apparently startled a squirrel. Not a very good shot of the foxglove, but if you click on the picture and enlarge it, you will see the squirrel making a mad dash for safety in the upper left corner of the photo.

The Weirdness Chronicles 2006, Chapter Five

I have wanted foxglove for years. I have sown seed year after year. Different times. Different beds. Indoors. Outdoors. Nothing worked. Finally, I broke down and bought a plant. It bloomed this year. Apparently I planted it backwards. The flowers are all facing the back of the bed. I didn't know foxglove had a "front" and a "back", did you? Was the package labelled and I missed it?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Back (again!) at Rutgers Gardens

I went back to Rutgers Gardens today to check on my bed and to do some weeding in the Herb Bed. This is a little garden across the road from the Display Gardens. It is composed of cacti and succulents.

I love the contrast between the lush annuals and veggies in the Display Gardens and the sparse beauty of the desert plants.

How do these heat loving plants survive the winter, you ask? They spend it in a cozy greenhouse, of course! The "pots" in this picture are actually pieces of clay pipe. I love that idea, don't you?

Isn't the little arbor really cool?

These beds are new this year, as is the "entry" that has been created with containers. Unlike the other beds in the Display Gardens, these have mowing strips.

I love strolling around looking at what the other volunteers have planted in their plots. This looks like a moon garden with all the white flowers and silver foliage.

This is "Kayla's Korner". Kayla is the granddaughter of the Volunteer Coordinator (in the Golf Cart). I'm not sure how old Kayla is. Elementary school age perhaps. She chose all of the flowers and created the design herself. I think she did a great job, don't you?

I think this is some kind of sage in the Herb Bed.

Foxglove in the Butterfly Garden.

A little whimsy in one of the veggie plots. I'll have to find out whose bed this is.

Coreopsis in another veggie plot.

I have no clue what this is, but I really like it!

Even the compost bins are beautiful here.

I don't know what kind of roses these are but they give me an idea for my own composter.

Any excuse to plant more roses in my gardens!