A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Monday, February 26, 2007

Winter Sowing

I'm definitely getting old. Not only is AARP trying to recruit me but I have also gone beyond merely talking to myself. I now hold both sides of the conversation. The most recent incident happened a few weeks ago when I was straightening up a corner in my basement and came across a bunch of one gallon water bottles left over from the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd when we had no potable water for about a week. The National Guard brought in tanks of water and we would all line up behind Borough Hall with our containers for our daily ration.

"Wow! Hurricane Floyd. . . that was a while ago. What year was that?"

"I think it was 1999."

"There hasn't been any emergencies since then so I guess it's safe to get rid of all these containers."

"There sure are a lot of them. Too bad I'm not into that winter sowing thing."

"Wait a sec. Why exactly have I not done winter sowing?"

"Because I had no containers."

So I did a little research on WinterSown.Org and discovered that one gallon water bottles are perfect containers and that it is not too late to start. I also learned that quite a few of the seeds that I ordered and have collected myself can be wintersown. Speaking of which, this is what my seed drawer looked like:

Coincidentally, like last year I ordered 68 different kinds of seeds. Not the same 68 either. I like to try new things every year.

I invested in duct tape, freezer tape, a Sharpie and a lot of potting soil and went to work. This is what I have accomplished after two days work:

The reason for the space is that there is an iris or something growing there. I chose this bed deliberately because I had dug it out last fall so I know there is nothing growing there. Except that iris that I must have transplanted there for some reason that was valid then but is now long-forgotten.

And this is what is inside the bottles:

Bachelor's Buttons
Cleome 'White Queen'
Cosmos 'Seashells'
Wild Purple Foxglove
Jewels of Opar
Nicotiana 'Lime Green'
Nicotiana sylvestris
Pansy 'Chalon Supreme'
Snapdragon 'Black Prince'
Snapdragon 'Plum Blossom'
Verbena bonariensis

I have lots more seeds and about half a dozen more containers. Are you feeling sorry for my poor neighbors yet? Remember, these are the people that have seen me drag furniture out of the house to stand on and take pictures. And don't forget the time I walked all over a couple of my freshly dug beds after planting Wild Lupine seeds. I can see them now looking out of their windows, seeing my recyclables neatly lined up in my backyard instead of at the curb for collection and wondering "What is she up to now?"

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


I love the colors in this picture. It was taken in the Butterfly Garden at Rutgers Gardens. The flowers are Zowie zinnias.

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

Friday, February 23, 2007

First Crocus of 2007

Announcing . . . the first crocus of 2007! It's the same bunch that bloomed first last year. The year before that it was the bunch in front of the shed and that was one week later.

Nice thing about a blog. It's so easy to "remember" this stuff.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Winter Walk

The unseasonably cold weather has finally broken. I took advantage of the warm weather to take a long overdue Winter Walk through Rutgers Gardens. It's something that I've wanted to do every since I took a Fall Foliage Stroll through the Gardens some time ago. As much as I enjoyed the colors of the foliage, I found myself more intrigued by the shapes of the branches. I've been meaning to come back when the trees were bare to get some pictures of the interesting patterns that they form.

I wasn't disappointed. Everywhere I looked, up down right left, I saw intricate spider webs of branches.
Without the distraction of colorful foliage and lush undergrowth, I found myself noticing more details like bark:

Mindful of the Mushroom Walk last fall, I kept an eye out for fungi.

And, like my previous walk in the woods, I found myself wondering about its secret life.
What is going on here?

After my walk in the woods, I headed over to the pond that was so pretty in the fall. Now it looks forlorn.
Some plants are at their best in the bareness of winter.

I have previously posted about my disappointment on discovering that there is no such thing as the first robin of spring. They are around all year. In the winter, their diet changes to berries. As I passed through the holly grove, I was dumbfounded by the number of robins I saw.
Every one of the specks in those trees is a robin. They are concentrated here because of the berries on the hollies. I passed through the holly grove to get to a part of the Gardens that I had never visited. It is an old greenhouse that will one day be renovated or replaced.

I wanted to get some pictures of it before it disappeared or changed. Before leaving, I went to visit my favorite little bridge in the Native Plant Garden.
I really like this picture for some reason. The nice thing about digital cameras is that they allow you to take as many pictures as you have the time, patience and/or batteries for. That's a good thing for a beginner photographer like myself because occasionally I get the most amazing pictures, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. This one was intentional but it came out even better than I had anticipated:
I haven't touched this photo. The greens really all are on one side.

More photos of my outing can be found on Flickr.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


Isn't this a great shot? The butterfly is actually on the flower but it appears that I caught it in flight. The swallowtails are easy to photograph because they are so tame. I can literally walk right up to them. The monarchs are much shyer.

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

Saturday, February 17, 2007

NJ Flower & Garden Show 2007 - Part 2

I was very fortunate this year to have a garden club member explain to me how the judging system works, what the judges look for and to look for the little card with the judges' comments. So here are a few of the flower arrangements that I viewed along with my comments and the judges' comments.

The judges awarded First Place to this vignette (theme: "Tell Me a Story"). I thought it looked very commercial, something you would see out on the floor with all the display gardens.

I liked this one much better. The judges thought it was too busy.

"Tea in the Secret Garden". I absolutely loved the unique centerpiece. The judges said the napkins were out of proportion.

They gave first place to what I thought was a very conventional arrangement.

"The Teddy Bears' Picnic". I only see teddy bears at two of the picnics! The published guidelines for these arrangements didn't specifically say there had to be teddy bears, but I think it's kinda hard to have a teddy bears' picnic without the bears.

Kids are so inventive. They were given a theme of "The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" and look at some of designs they came up with:

This one is in honor of the heroes of 9/11.

This one is in honor of veterans.

I get teased a lot at work about the number of times during the growing season that I'm sporting a rash from poison ivy. My coworkers claim that they don't understand why I keep getting into it. After all, I'm a Master Gardener and I should know what it looks like, right? So when I saw this, I had to take a picture and email it to the biggest instigator in the office:

He printed it out and hung it up on the outside of my cubicle! Thanks, G. You're a real pal.

I don't remember seeing any ribbons or comments on these two. The theme is "Cinderella: The Golden Coach".

This is just way too abstract for me.

This looks like a Dali painting.

And here is my absolute favorite arrangement in the entire show. The theme is "Rapunzel: Rapunzel in the Tower". The judges liked it too. They awarded it First Place.

OH . . . MY . . . GOD . . . It looks like it's being hanged! Who would want to execute a flower arrangement?

I much preferred this one although I'm not sure where Rapunzel or her tower come in. Don't you just love the tacky spray painted shelving?

These two I understood and liked. The theme is ""The Mad Hatter's Unbirthday Party":

This next grouping caused some controversy. The theme is "Rapunzel: Let Down Your Golden Hair". The judges gave First Place to the arrangement on the left. I have to admit, I really like it. They were quite dismissive of the arrangement on the far right. They said it was too literal. Well, duh! It's Rapunzel letting down her hair!

Remember those cacti and succulents that are awaiting an appropriate container? I'm also trying to come up with an arrangement for the dish when I find one I like.

This is cute, don't you think?

So is this:
"The queen's Croquet Game". Yay! Someone actually read the book and didn't just wing it.

"Little Red Riding Hood's Basket for Grandma". I loved the way the flowers spill out of one side. And that's exactly why the judges didn't like it. They felt it through it off balance.

They gave First Place to this. BORING!!

Of course, we didn't always disagree.

"Mirror, Mirror on the Wall". The judges and I both thought this deserved First Place. The other arrangements were so bland that I couldn't be bothered to even photograph them.

"Crown for a Queen". From right to left, Second Place, Third Place and Honorable Mention:

I couldn't agree more. So what was so spectacular that it garnered a thumbs up from both the judges and myself?

Oh, yeah! Disney references, the poison apple, a veil. Applause, applause.

This is the "arrangement" that was most meaningful for me:

Those are some of the agave pups that I helped propagate at the Rutgers Gardens' greenhouse last September. They are part of the plant sale at their booth which is located in Mr. McGregor's garden shed. That's the best part of volunteering for me. Seeing the fruits of my labor and the benefit it brings to the Gardens.

More photos can be seen on Flickr.