A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm definitely growing this one again!

I decided to try a hummingbird feeder again this year. My past attempts at attracting hummingbirds have been spectacular failures. Loads of ants. No hummingbirds. After reading a book on attracting hummingbirds (see sidebar), I thought I would give it another try. This time, instead of just a feeder, I planted lots of red flowers. Some were more successful than others. The Fire King yarrow were more pink than red. The Jacob Cline monarda was red, but the flowers were spindly. Perhaps it just needs more time and more light. The Empress of India nasturtiums bloomed very, very briefly. The Texas Hummingbird Sage (Salvia coccinea) was very satisfying. Beautiful red flowers. I'll be growing that again next year.

By far the very, very best of the lot were the zinnias. Most seed companies carry red zinnias but the book recommended Scarlet King zinnias. I found them in the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog. Take a look:

The tallest ones are over 4' (1.2 meters) tall. The flowers are 4" (10 centimeters) across. And boy are they SCARLET! As you can see from the picture (taken today) they are the exact same color as the feeder. They survived extreme neglect. Because of my busy schedule this summer (gardening in three different towns), I did very little watering and virtually no weeding. They grew and bloomed in spite of me.

If you are looking for a great flower for a hummingbird garden and/or you are a zinnia lover like myself, I highly recommend these. I'll be planting LOTS more next year.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club

The growing season is winding down. I'll be taking time off from work at the end of next month to get my bulbs in the ground. After that, other than raking leaves, there won't be a whole lot of gardening going on until next April.

My intention when I started this blog two years ago was to write about gardening year-round. Last winter was easy because I was taking Master Gardener classes. This winter will be more difficult. How many different things can I find to write about working in a greenhouse or the Garden Helpline for the Master Gardeners?

Fortunately, Carol of May Dreams Gardens has come up with a great idea: an online book club. Heck, I was planning on reading garden books anyways. I usually review a few of the books I read so this is a perfect fit for me. Here's a list of some of the books I would like to read this winter:

Tulipomania : The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused by Mike Dash
The American Gardener by William Cobbett
We Made A Garden by Margery Fish
An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter

I have already read and enjoyed Carol's suggestion, Green Thoughts,: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perenyi. Every time I see tree peonies, I think of this wonderful book. I wouldn't mind reading it again. And I would definitely be willing to host a month.

I can't wait to find out what book we will be reading first!

Newsletter News

I just noticed that the Fall edition of the Middlesex County Master Gardener newsletter that I labor over is available online! Go here and see all the improvements we've made since the first newsletter. We've added a recipe column and loads more pictures. Two of them are mine, the rain garden photo and the recipe column photo. My favorite picture is the one illustrating the Ag Field Day article. The gentleman with the binder is in my Master Gardener class. It really captures his essence. No, I didn't take the picture. In case anyone is wondering, I do appear in photos in both issues. Sadly, my garden gnome has been replaced by a garden frog. You gotta wonder, though, about a group that allows its garden art to write articles!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Never Volunteer . . .

. . . to propogate the agave if you don't have your garden gloves:

Click on the picture to enlarge it and see my bloody hands!

The Head Hatter made it look so easy!

Just loosen the soil and the pups pop out. Say that three times fast!

The tender plants are being brought into the greenhouse at Rutgers Gardens and prepared to over-winter.

The agave pups were potted up by another volunteer:

Other plants, like these tiny Colocasia (elephant ear), are being separated and then stored as bare-roots.

After I finished the agave, I decided to tackle some canna. No thorns! Maybe if I had seen this, I would have chosen something else:

Those canna rhizomes are tough!

By far the best job of the day was separating the Society Garlic:

Those are canna leaves at the bottom of the photo. This garlic is decorative rather than culinary, I believe, but it still smelled great. The woman who was working with it said she was getting cravings for pizza. It put me in the mood for lasagna.

Outside of the greenhouse was more evidence of Ernesto's power:

Luckily, it missed the greenhouse. They are going to try and save this tree.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Ernesto Effect

I stopped working nights last week. This is my first "real" weekend in about three years. I didn't have any time to myself, though. Yesterday was Home Gardener's School and today was the Master Gardeners' Annual Picnic.

It was Pot Luck everything. Everybody brought their specialty so we ended up with a huge table lined with an amazing assortment of dishes. I baked cookies. We were also asked to bring a plant for the Plant Swap. I dug up a couple of bunches of the lavender iris that I have an over-abundance of and "swapped" it for some heuchera. I have the perfect spot for it!

We had a small ceremony honoring the artist who created our logo for us. We gave her one of our shirts that we wear at events identifying us as Middlesex County Master Gardeners. The logo is embroidered on the shirt. It's also used on our newsletter.

The picnic was held at Davidson Mill Pond Park. I haven't been there for a couple of weeks, since before Tropical Depression (originally Hurricane) Ernesto blew through. I had heard that there was a lot of damage to our herb beds from the 50 mph (80 kph) winds. Most of the taller plants were blown over and had to be staked afterwards.

Here is a "Before" shot of my herb bed:
And after Ernesto:

The Basil bed that I helped plant and maintain didn't fare as badly. This is "Before":

"After" doesn't look all that different, does it?

Okay, maybe the zinnias took a hit, but all in all it looks pretty good.

My gardens at home were not damaged at all in the storm. For some reason, it wasn't as bad at my house. Lots of rain but very little wind.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Home Gardener's School - Fall Edition

There are very few events that I am willing to get up early on a Saturday morning for. An entire day of gardening classes is a great incentive! This session was "craft-y" in the morning and "garden-y" in the afternoon. I just made up those words.

My first class was on dried and pressed flowers. I am not at all artistic but I know the teacher so I knew there would be a lot more to it than just making pretty pictures with dried flowers. The teacher was none other than the Head Hatter herself. She gave a fascinating lecture on drying flowers, pressing flowers and which flowers AND foliage (who knew?) can be dried/pressed most successfully. She dries flowers from the Display Gardens at Rutgers Gardens and then sells them both in bunches and as potpourri at their sales. A real pro! Then we got to the part where I actually had to choose and glue flowers and foliage. Sheer torture for this un-artistic (made up that one too!) soul.

Next up was a class on making herbal soaps. Herbal soaps? Never heard of them but I am now growing more herbs in my gardens so I thought it might be interesting. It was more than interesting. And more than lavender. I had no idea so many different kinds and combinations of herbs could be used or their many soothing/defoliating/anti-bacterial qualities. I was so inspired by the lecture that I may actually attempt the cinnamon/clove combination for the holidays. Now my bathroom can look AND smell great for Christmas. The teacher for this course is also a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens.

Lunch break and then the afternoon started off with a class on houseplants taught by the woman who runs the Floriculture greenhouses where I worked and lost seedlings and befriended Beatrice the cat. And where I rooted cuttings from two jade plants that are doing surprisingly well as is the snake plant that one of my Master Gardener classmates gave me. It's definitely time I learned more about caring for houseplants. What did I learn? That I over-water and over-pot. And I need to divide my spider plant. You can divide them? Who knew?

My last class was on "water in the landscape". No surprise why I signed up for that one. Unfortunately, it was a how-to class on installing ponds and waterfalls rather than the aesthetics of water in the landscape. I will never, ever attempt a pond. Waaaaaay too much work and too much money. I'll stick to a birdbath.

I've added another cat blog to my sidebar. A new kitty has joined our family. He's blogging the experience at Furry Kitty Butt. The resident Maine Coon is ranting, er, blogging his side of the story at Poopy Coon Feet. Yes, I have very unique nicknames for my pets. Kinda makes you wonder what I call my friends, doesn't it?