A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Green Thumb Sunday


This is for my fellow Straw Hatter, A, who pointed out to me that the photo I posted of the shed at Rutgers Gardens in October for my post on the Fall Foliage Festival did not properly show the window treatments that the volunteers had worked so hard to create. I chose that particular photo because it showed the side door which I talked about in my post. Here is a more flattering picture showing the windows in all their glory.

The shed, which is divided into two rooms inside one on either side of the door, was originally used as offices. Then it was used for storage and drying flowers. Now it is going to be converted into a gift shop and opened to the public.

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club

I can't say that I enjoyed "My Favorite Plant" entirely. It was very uneven. The essays by garden writers were wonderful. The one exception was the overly long selection from F Kingdon Ward, an English plant collector. I kept hoping he would fall off of the mountain and put me out of my misery. The essays by non-garden writers were boring. I'm not even going to comment on the poetry. I've never understood poetry. The typeface used in this book drove me batty. Sorry, I'm just not the artsy type. I will be gladly returning this volume to the library today.

On a happier note, Amazon.com has notified me that my order, consisting of the January and February selections, has been shipped. I am eagerly awaiting their arrival. I've heard nothing but praise from other gardening readers for both books.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Green Thumb Sunday


This lovely pond is in the Display Gardens at Rutgers Gardens. The plants in the pots are actually water plants. The pots have no drainage holes so that the plants can sit in water.

I have to brag a little. This photo and a photo of the footbridge in the Native Plants garden that I took appear on the Rugers Gardens website here. Two more of my photos of the volunteers at work appear on the page describing the Volunteer Program. It is such an honor and a thrill for me that my photography is featured on the website of such a prestigious institution.

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

And then there were seven . . .

I have a window on the second floor of my house that is perfect for African violets. I purchased a couple in the grocery store years ago that have flourished and bloomed beautifully. One, keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I didn't know what to do with it until a fellow Master Gardener told me I could safely divide it. She had done it and then donated the results for plant auctions to raise money for the Master Gardener program. What a great idea! I counted the divisions and bought six pots. Well, I counted wrong. It was more like eight. I put the two smallest ones in one large pot and the rest in the small pots that I had bought.

I'm not sure what to do with the African violet on the far left. It blooms beautifully but the "stem" keeps getting longer and longer. Maybe I should just take some cuttings to root and dispose of the rest.

And the one in the middle in the first picture? That's an illegal cutting. I won't say where I got it from, just that I had never seen one like it, so I quietly pinched off a leaf and brought it home. It has rooted nicely.

I have accumulated so many houseplants now that I have outgrown the shelf extenders that I bought years ago. All of my windowsills look like the second picture. I'm going to have to break down and buy actual plant stands!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Green Thumb Sunday


This is a rain barrel. And one of my all-time favorite features at Rutgers Gardens. The roof is conical shaped, funneling rainwater into a barrel located inside the structure. You can't see the barrel in this picture because of the vines. It's difficult to judge the size of the structure from this photo. It's slightly larger than a normal gazebo.

The problem here is that visitors to the gardens use the rain barrel as a trash barrel. Signs have been tried and ignored. A grate was placed over the top of the barrel. People merely pushed smaller trash through it. A solution has finally been reached. The entire structure was removed when electrical service was installed in the Sun and Shade Garden where it is located.

I'm glad I took this picture and have a momento of this unique garden building.

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Adopt-A-Plot 2007

The theme has been chosen for 2007 for the Display Gardens at Rutgers Gardens. For those of you who are just joining us, the Adopt-A-Plot system was explained in this post. This coming year's theme is "The Nature of Our Heritage". The committee beds will have plants from Mexico, China, Puerto Rico and India. How did they arrive at those countries? Those are some of the nationalities of the people living in the nearby city of New Brunswick which is the home of Rutgers University. Hopefully, there will also be new veggie beds behind the existing ones planted with veggies native to those countries. (A diagram of the Display Gardens can be found here) They are also hoping to attract volunteers of those nationalities to act as docents for those beds similar to what we saw at NYBG.

The Head Hatter who oversees the design, planting and maintenance of the Display Gardens suggested that the volunteers who are adopting plots could plant their plots according to their own heritage. Hmmm . . . my ancestors were mostly from England . . . Of course! An English Cottage Garden, my favorite gardening style and a chance to showcase some of my beloved heirloom flowers.

While I waited for the seed catalogs to arrive, I did some research. My local library is part of a consortium of libraries, so I have a wide variety of books available to me. I visited their site and found three books that I highly recommend to anyone interested in cottage gardening: Christopher Lloyd's The Cottage Garden from which I came up with a list of "authentic" English cottage garden flowers, Creating a Cottage Garden in North American by Stephen Westcott-Gratton for cottage garden flowers that grow well in North America and, since the Display Gardens showcase annual flowers, Clive Lane's Cottage Garden Annuals: Grown from Seed for Summer-Long Colour.

After reading all three books, I came up with my first list of possibilities for my bed. I winnowed the list down after talking it over with Head Hatter. She was advised me on which flowers wouldn't do well in the Display Gardens based on her many years of gardening there. Hollyhocks are too tall (nothing over 3 feet tall). No larkspur or snapdragons, too hot and dry. Petunias are heavy feeders and also not recommended. Cosmos bipinnatus flops although the Cosmos sulphureus I grew last year had no problems. Based on my own observations, Bachelor's Buttons are out. The ones in the Head Hatter's bed last year got eaten by deer? ground hogs?

On the plus side, cleome and nasturtiums grow great there. My calendulas was fabulous last year. No cottage garden is complete without sunflowers which shouldn't mind the hot dry conditions there so I'm going to try some miniature ones. I also discovered Verbena bonariensis in another volunteer's plot last year and fell in love. I'm going to grow it both at home and in my own plot. I received some nigella as free seed last year and just wasn't thrilled with it but it is a classic cottage garden flower so I will also be growing that. I still want to try Seashells cosmos despite how awful the cosmos looked in other beds last year. I'm hoping since it is an heirloom, it won't flop as badly. And I will probably break down and try the Bachelor's Buttons.

My second (and still preliminary) plant list looks like this:

Miniature sunflowers (variety to be determined)
Rose Queen cleome (heirloom)
Seashells cosmos (heirloom)
Verbena bonariensis
Bachelor's Buttons
Empress of India nasturtium (heirloom)

The seed catalogs have begun to arrive. I'm sure I will be adding and subtracting to my list as I peruse them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Green Thumb Sunday

Last July I was asked to create a newsletter for the Open House at Rutgers Gardens. I wanted to illustrate it with photos of the wonderful plants at the Gardens but the newsletter had to be in black and white to keep the printing cost as low as possible. I modified my "theme" to places in the Gardens.

This cute little bench is in the herb garden. There is a little stone path inviting you to step into the garden, sit on the bench and enjoy the scents of the herbs such as lavenders and scented geraniums.

This is the view from the bench. Those are mints planted in clay pipes to prevent them from taking over the bed.

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Flowers of December

Thanks to the unseasonable warm weather lately, I still have flowers blooming. The yarrow never really stopped.

The Bachelors Buttons just keep getting better and better.

A surprising entrant in the winter flowering sweepstakes are my calendula which didn't do well this year. They have perked up considerably and are now starting to bloom. This one in particular is growing up through a foxglove.

The poor green miniature rose has no idea what season it is and has decided to throw caution to the wind and put out a tentative bud.

My biggest concern with all this weird weather is The Little Hyacinth That Could. It has been coming up and blooming faithfully every year I have lived in this house. Today I noticed that not only is it starting to sprout, but something has been digging and chewing on it. Horrors! I took this picture and then kicked some dirt over it to both protect it and discourage any hungry rabbits or squirrels.
As predicted, it was much colder today than yesterday, but at 50F (10C), it was still warm for December for NJ.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December Thoughts

Well, actually I only have one thought on December 1. It was 68F (20C) at 9:00 AM today and 70F (21C) at 4:00 PM. Can you say "Global Warming"?