A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Monday, July 30, 2007

Finally, A Solution

I’ve been living with The Ugly Green Fence since my neighbors installed it in 2005. I’ve tried different ideas to break up the loooooong boring expanse of green with varying degrees of success.

Morning glories fill the bill quite nicely.

The only problem is that my neighbors don’t like me to grow anything on their fence. I keep telling those naughty morning glories to stay on their own (short) fence, but they just won’t listen.

I was going to try Love-Lies-Bleeding which has been reseeding itself in my gardens for the past several years. Except this year, of course, when I actually had a use for it. Must have been the weird winter/spring weather we had. Not a single seedling popped up.

I’ve tried roses and zebrina.

Well, you know how that turned out.

I had high hopes for the Hyacinth Bean tepee.

Hopes which were dashed by the extremely poor germination rate of most of the seeds I ordered from Park’s this year.

This is all that came up of the hyacinth beans.

I think I have finally hit on the perfect solution. It was accidental. I had some extra wintersown Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate and thought “What the heck? I’ll just stick them along The Ugly Green Fence”. And voila:

The leaves are large enough to break up the solid fence. The pink flowers add needed spots of color. And the best part is that the plants won’t crowd out or shade out lower-growing plants.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


There is a page on the Rutgers Gardens website devoted to the Volunteer Program. There you'll find information on becoming a volunteer, available volunteer opportunities and the benefits offered to volunteers. One benefit not mentioned is the opportunity to preview the plant sales.

I was at Rutgers Gardens on Friday, doing last minute prep work on my plot and getting the herb bed into a presentable condition for the Open House on Saturday. Before I left, I took a stroll through the area where the plant sale was going to be held. And that's when I saw them: russian sages!

I had to be at the Gardens at 8:30 AM the following morning. Normally, being anywhere first thing in the morning is nearly impossible for me because I work nights. That morning I had no trouble getting up, getting dressed, and feeding the crew. There was virtually no traffic so I was at the Gardens bright and early to pick out the best of the sages and set it aside.

I was too tired to plant it yesterday and it has rained all day today. I had some time in between thunderstorms to try out my new plant in different locations. I've decided that I like it best in the border along the Ugly Green Fence behind the White Swan echinacea. The dark color of the fence highlights the light color of the foliage and I like the contrast between the tall airy sage and the bulkier, shorter coneflowers.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's Here!

The big day has finally arrived. The 43rd Annual Open House at Rutgers Gardens.

My sunflowers have opened right on time.

Behind the garden gate, the veggies and herbs compete with the flowers of the Display Gardens for visitors' attention.

The hours and days of frantic preparation have paid off. The gardens are at their peak of perfection. All that is missing now are the crowds of admirers.

Later . . .

It was a perfect day. I'm exhausted from the heat and the crowds. But I also came home with a very special souvenir today. I can't wait to share it with you on Green Thumb Sunday.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Bounty of Summer

When I was at Colonial Park last weekend, I noticed that their blackberry lilies were literally covered with blooms. Mine have been more miserly. Only one flower per day has opened. Until today, that is.

Apparently they were just warming up. My patience has been rewarded with the same multitude of flowers. Those are rudbeckia around the edges. They are everywhere!

I took a closer look around my yard and discovered that summer is hitting her stride. Not unlike my counterparts who grow veggies, my gardens are producing their own bounty.

My squirrel-ravaged conainers have filled in enough to hide the furry fiends' predations.

The wintersown Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate greet me when I pull into my driveway.

My butterfly bush is covered with both blossoms and butterflies. If you enlarge the picture, you will see three butterflies. There were up to nine butterflies feasting on nectar at any given time today.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


I have a confession to make. I’m a thief. Yes, I know that all gardeners are thieves. We help ourselves to seeds and cuttings. I stole an idea and didn’t give credit. I finally had to come clean when I saw this at Rutgers Gardens:

I knew it wasn’t green nicotiana because I’m growing that in my plot this year. When I got closer, I saw . . .

. . . that the flowers were pink inside. I had to know what it was. The gardener hadn’t installed his labels yet. I decided to email him and ask.

First I had to confess to him that I had fallen in love with the Verbena bonariensis that he grew last year and planted it in my plot this year without attribution. Then I had to admit that I wasn’t asking about the nicotiana out of curiosity but because I wanted to be able to grow it in my plot next year.

He was very gracious in his reply. The nicotiana is a hybrid called “Tinkerbell”. He was even kind enough to tell me where to get seeds (Thompson & Morgan or Nicky’s seeds). He also pointed out that the pollen is blue. I hadn’t noticed and you can’t really see it in the photo.

He went on to say that the purpose of the Display Gardens at Rutgers Gardens is to provide “inspiration” so he always makes a point of planting a few unusual varieties in his bed. He’s glad that I have taken note. In his opinion, “A ‘true
gardener’ is always looking for something different.”

Gardeners are such generous people, wouldn’t you agree? I’ll be keeping a close eye on his bed every year.

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

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Straw Hats go to a Garden Party

The Straw Hat Society was back at Colonial Park (home of van der Goot Rose Garden) for the annual Garden Party. I’ve been wanting to go back to see the perennial beds in bloom. I wasn’t disappointed.

I even found a new must-have plant for my garden, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).

It was everywhere, in different combinations.

I liked it with Shasta Daisies . . .

It looked good with daylilies too . . .

And with phlox.

Speaking of combinations, doesn’t this one just take your breath away?

I really liked this Bluebeard shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Blue Mist’). It’s a small, mounding shrub, 2’-4’ tall and 3’-4’ wide that blooms from mid-summer into fall. The flowers are fragrant and attract butterflies. Hmmmm . . . this might be a good choice for my failed Butterfly Garden.

The only disappointment of the day was when we were unable to find a label for these lilies. I’ve never seen any this tall. Have you?

More pictures of the gardens can be seen on Flickr.

Mystery Lily

The third hybrid oriental lily bloomed today. This is either Casablanca or Lemon Meringue. It doesn't look anything like the pictures of either one. And I have to admit that I don't find it particularly attractive.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Counting Down

Only one more week until the Open House at Rutgers Gardens.

Except for the cosmos, my garden is ready.

Are you?

AAS Display Beds

Pond Garden

Herb Bed

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Star Gazing

Lillium ‘Stargazer’

A second lily has opened in the Entry Garden, the incomparable Stargazer lily. Unfortunately, there will only be one of these. The squirrels destroyed the second bulb. I’m wondering if these multiply or if I should splurge and buy more? They are definitely worth the price.

Notice the rudbeckia in the background? It’s everywhere!

They're Almost Here!

Zinnia elegans ‘Scarlet King’

Speaking of incomparable, the breathlessly anticipated Scarlet King zinnias are starting to bloom. They were recommended for a hummingbird garden in Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard, my bible when it comes to butterflies and hummingbirds. There are lots of red zinnias to choose from in the catalogs, but since this variety was specifically mentioned, I hunted it down. It wasn’t difficult. They are sold by Pinetree Garden Seeds who also have very attractive seed packets.

Scarlet King zinnias are indeed scarlet. Here’s what last year’s crop looked like:

This year’s crop promises to be even better. I can’t recommend these zinnias highly enough. If you have a hummingbird garden or just like red zinnias, these are the ones you want.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Poppies I Have Grown

I think I should give up trying to grow poppies. Last year, I planted so-called “Flemish Antique” poppies that were supposed to look like this:

What I got was this:

Undaunted, this year I tried two other types of poppies. In the Purple Garden, it was Hungarian Breadseed poppies:

All I got was one, sickly plant:

Same story in the Entry Garden. I ordered Pink Peony poppies:

I got one sickly plant that looked nothing like that:

And those are just the annual poppies I’ve tried to grow. I’ve already given up on oriental poppies. No matter how or where I plant them, they refuse to grow altogether. So I’m going to stick to the free poppy seeds I receive in the mail every year.

They germinate, grow and bloom with little or no care. They come in singles and doubles and a multitude of colors including picotee. I conscientiously saved seed last year and ended up with too many. This year, as my first experiment for the 2008 growing year, I’m going to allow them to self sow and see what colors, what forms and how many come back.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Welcome to my garden in July! The hanging baskets have filled out. The wintersown Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate have reached the bottom of one of the baskets and have just begun to bloom.

The Nikko Blue hydrangeas are past their prime. I love this transient color as they fade.

The Strawberry Jar Experiment has been wildly successful. I didn’t have to raise it on bricks. The nasturtium foliage exploded over the asters. Interspersed among the leaves are orange and yellow blossoms.

My newest hosta, given to me by a Special Gardener and then nearly destroyed when I stepped on it, is blooming. I’ve never seen striped hosta flowers.

The Entry Garden continues to disappoint. The only annuals that germinated and grew were Bachelor’s Buttons.

Muscadet gets more spectacular every day. I have high hopes for the rest of the lilies. I’m slowly learning what grows well here. Yarrow and lavender, both past their prime now, in particular love this bed.

I think this is probably the last GBBD for the pansies. They have held up amazingly in the heat.

The squirrels seem to have lost interest in digging in my containers. Both the New Guinea impatiens and the impatiens have grown up enough to hide most of the damage.

Here’s another example of unplanned plantings. I love the look of the Echinacea and Lunaria.

Right next door, Shasta Daisies.

I don’t know what these are. They came as a freebie with a plant order years ago. No matter how much I abuse them, they come up faithfully year after year.

I can’t figure out how the liatris survives in my shade garden with just a tiny bit of sun every morning.

The reds of the Hummingbird Garden surrounded by . . .

Rudbeckia is everywhere!

Here’s another successful experiment. Morning glories climbing the trellis to which I added string.

Morning glories climbing the Ugly Green Fence. And more rudbeckia.

The petunias are nearly hidden now by balsam. . .

. . . and more wintersown Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate.

Zebrina struggling out of the weeds.

The poppies are also holding up well in the heat. There are the usual singles as well these doubles and in the background, picotee.

These yarrow are really strange. I moved them to this border last fall and they bloomed prostrate like this. I attributed it to the fact that they had just been transplanted. They are doing the same thing this year. I'm going to be moving this yarrow again this coming fall to the Entry Garden where the other yarrow has done so well. It will be interesting to see if it continues its prostrate habit.

Canterbury Bells that refuse to die.

Rudbeckia galore!

Canterbury Bells and Echinacea

Not only have I seen many fewer bees this year, but also almost no butterflies. My butterfly bush is in full bloom and as you can see, there is not a butterfly in sight.

At the base of the butterfly bush a few Johnny Jump-Ups peek out oblivious to the hot July weather.