A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


Yesterday, “A” and I saw this little building at Well Sweep Herb Farm. We knew it couldn’t be a toolshed because people were going in and out of it. We kept saying “It can’t be, it can’t be”. We just had to peek inside:

Yup! It’s a “necessary”. A two seater, no less.

I told “A” I should call this post Brown Thumb Sunday. She said “Ewwwww!” What do you say?

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

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Straw Hats Go To Well Sweep Herb Farm

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Well Sweep Herb Farm. I’ve drooled over their catalog. But I also have a tendency to procrastinate. This could very well have turned into one of those situations where I intend to visit a place but never actually get there. Luckily, during one of my visits to their website, I clicked on their Special Events page. They have a Customer Appreciation Day. 20% off all purchases. Plus free admission, free parking, and free tours. They even offer a free lunch.

Calling all Straw Hats! This is right up our alley. Gardens. Tours. Gift Shop. Sale. The Head Hatter had to supervise volunteers at Rutgers Gardens for a Work Day, but "A" was free and eager to accompany me on a Straw Hat Adventure.

I knew we were in for a treat as I parked my car along a gorgeous border.

If the parking lot looks this good, the rest of the place must be spectacular. And it was.

Display gardens are everywhere. Click on this photo to see the blooming Japanese anemones. They were on my wishlist. On a tour we learned that they spread aggressively. My favorite kind of plant! I bought two, a pink and a white.

The tour of the perennial gardens included the sunny garden, the healing garden,

the shade garden and my personal favorite,

The alpine garden. There were also whimsical gardens.

The most impressive was the formal garden.

Now this is a circle of thyme!

The inner circle beds are different varieties of thyme. The outer circles have various rosemarys, sages, and other herbs. In case you are wondering how many plants are pictured, the website says that they carry and display 38 basils, 73 lavenders, 54 rosemarys, 108 thymes and 70 scented-leaf geraniums.

And here’s their version of a knot garden:

Don’t you just love the different colors and heights? How about these topiaries?

Sorry, it was another scorching day with high humidity. My brain was so fried, that I neglected to make a note of the plant material used in the knot garden and topiaries.

And what farm would be complete without livestock? They have sheep and chickens.

I shopped until I dropped. Here’s what I came home with:

Anemone hupehensis ‘Prince Henry’
Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’
Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’
Chelone oblique ‘Alba’ (Turtlehead)
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s Breeches)
Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern)
Heucherella ‘Stoplight’
Lavandula augustifolia ‘Jean Davis’
Primula japonica

I bought the anemones and the aster because I am looking for fall color in my garden. I’ve ordered roots of the New England aster many times, but they never came up. I’m hoping that an actual plant will survive the winter. The turtlehead and Dutchman’s Breeches are for a new White Shade Garden inspired by a seed trade. More on that another time. I seem to be collecting ferns without meaning to. I haven’t decided exactly where I want to plant the heuchera and the primrose. I have plenty of shade in my yard so I have a lot of choices. The primrose is the candelabra type that I have been lusting after. I’ve been collecting lavenders for two years now. Lucky for me, they seem to like the Entry Garden. ‘Jean Davis’ is a pink lavender. I had also wanted a white, but they were out of the one on my list. Guess that means I’ll have to go back next year.

Isn’t that too bad?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Hosta

Last year I created a new little garden next to my porch with two hostas I had purchased at the grocery store and some coleus cuttings. The hostas were quite small when I bought them:

But they seem to like their new home. At least one of them does.

I never got around to planting the same container with coleus, but this corner hasn’t looked bare thanks to the increased size of the Happy Hosta.

I know, I should have weeded BEFORE I took the picture, rather than after I took the picture.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

With old age, comes wisdom

Remember when I fell down my basement stairs two years ago? My hip never really stopped hurting. The past few weeks, the pain has intensified. I had it x-rayed and the doctor recommended that I see an orthopedist. Arthritis, of course. I can’t have an arthritic hip! How will I garden? Getting old is no fun.

I’m trying to stay positive. Old age has its advantages too. How about all that wisdom I’m supposed to have accumulated? Let’s see how wise I’ve become.

It’s been raining for two days and my hair is a frizzy mess. When I was young and foolish, frizzy hair was the end of civilization as we know it. Nowadays, I value it as a weather gauge. A quick glance in the mirror tells me the exact level of humidity. A slight curl indicates mildly elevated humidity. “Big Hair” means extremely high humidity.

I’ve stopped trying to control my garden, adopting a “free-range” approach instead. If a plant pops up in an unexpected place, instead of immediately moving it to where I want it to grow, I leave it. Obviously, that spot is a good one for it. After all, who would know better the optimal place for a plant than the plant itself?

The same holds true for plants that have been sited according to my latest “design”. If it doesn’t grow, I try something else. If it does grow, I plant more. That’s how my shady garden evolved into something so beautiful, that I use this picture as wallpaper on my computer:

The Wood Hyacinths were planted a decade ago. Originally they were an assortment of colors. Only the blue survive, the muted color perfect in this pseudo woodland setting. When I finally gave up on flowers in this bed, I tried ferns. And last were the hellebores. With all of the different leaf shapes, color other than the blue of the hyacinths is not needed.

I’ve also stopped ruthlessly ripping out anything that I didn’t plant. I allow “weeds” to grow. Occasionally those “weeds” turn into something beautiful, either a wildflower or a domesticated flower added to my garden by the birds.

I regularly practice “psychic” gardening. I get sudden urges to plant flowers in certain places or in certain combinations for no reason. I just “have a feeling”. Consider this combination:

The Echinacea was a passalong, given to me as a housewarming gift twelve years ago. It didn’t do much for years until I figured out the secret to making it multiply. A few years later, I added the Japanese iris. Last year, I added the lunaria. I had no plan in mind, just a feeling. And it paid off. I’ve been enjoying this combination for months now.

Best of all, I am wise enough now to truly appreciate my gardens. The colors, shapes and surprises draw me out of the house every day no matter what the weather. Gardening is the best therapy for mind and body.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Morning Glorious

As you may recall, I spent a few hours this spring attempting to create better structures for my morning glories to climb. However, I neglected to consult with the morning glories first. Apparently, they are less than thrilled with my efforts:

Had I, in fact, included them in my pre-planning process, they would have told me to save myself the time and string because they had a much better idea:

They are climbing my butterfly bush. I absolutely love this! The butterfly bush has finished its first flowering and the second is not as full as the first. The morning glories are adding wonderful color.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


I don't grow veggies. I've made attempts to grow various kinds of produce over the years. Resulting in spectacular failures. Did I ever mention the golfball sized watermelon? So I stick to flowers. More success. Better pictures.

I always felt that I lacked an innate ability to grow anything edible. Until I took the Master Gardener course. That was when I realized that growing veggies is a completely different skill set. And some items are just very difficult to grow successfully. Who knew that those fruit trees heavily advertised in catalogs are the source of much heartache and loss? Another surprise was corn. Supposedly you need a lot of space and a lot plants to obtain actual ears of corn. Not that I've ever tried to grow corn. It was just one of those interesting things I learned.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:

That's corn growing in the compost bin at Rutgers Gardens. If you click on the picture to enlarge it and peer intently, you can see an ear of corn. In the background is what looks like a squash. Or zucchini. I'm completely at sea when it comes to the difference between the two. Growing in the next bin is:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that looks a lot like datura. Obviously these plants are coming from seeds from Adopt-A-Plotters' plots. I've been dumping a lot spent sunflower heads in the compost bin so I expect to see a a bumper crop of sunflowers next year. I'll be sure to post pictures.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

This is probably the worst year ever for my gardens. Definitely the worst since I started keeping a record (this blog). I love experimenting. This year I really pushed the envelope. Too much, it seems. I crashed and burned. Here is it the middle of August when my yard should be a blaze of color thanks to all the annuals that I normally grow from seed. Instead, very little is blooming. My biggest “crop” is weeds.

Thanks goodness for Rudbeckia. It is so tough and reliable that I plant it in places where nothing else will grow.

Like the front of my house, near the steps. This clump is three years old. It was originally about 6” (15cm) in diameter. Now it is 3’ (1m) across.

Petunias are also tough. I’m glad I used them in my hanging baskets.

It’s difficult to photograph them well, but below this basket is where I plant my Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate. I love coming home to them.

The Nikko Blue hydrangeas are now fading to rose which will become a soft brown as they dry.

Right below them you can see the asters that will be blooming in a few weeks. Last year the asters were blooming in July.

Across the sidewalk is the infamous Entry Garden. Last year I didn’t think it could possibly look worse. I was wrong. Virtually none of the seeds I planted germinated. A few sickly zinnias, bachelor’s buttons and these tiny marigolds:

None of the cosmos seeds I planted came up. Only a very few from last year reseeded.

It was breezy when I was taking pictures today, so I had to hold this one still.

The New guinea impatiens that I spent a fortune on, have not done well.

Of the three colors, only this orange one has bloomed consistently.

The impatiens that the squirrels did their best to destroy are magnificent.

I wish I could say that about the rest of my yard. The Echinacea is fading. This is the most presentable bunch.

There are just a few flowers on some of the perennials:

St. John’s Wort

Great Blue Lobelia


Except, of course, for the Rudbeckia. This is the original clump.

I started it many years ago from a tiny plant ordered from a catalog. Whenever I have an empty space where nothing grows, I dig up a clump from here.

The new Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden is probably the most colorful area in my yard right now.




The Russian Sage is still going strong.

The Butterfly Bush has its last flush of flowers.

Along the Ugly Green Fence, is my newest Echinacea.

I’m not sure why the centers are green.

A lingering poppy.

The only Cosmos.

Nigella and Yarrow

And finally, the only true spectacle this year:


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


I was admiring the front beds in the Display Gardens at Rutgers Gardens when I noticed that one of the banana trees had bananas. I whisked out my camera and took a picture. I didn’t realize until I got home and uploaded the picture to my computer that it looked almost exactly like:

Audrey II (“Little Shop of Horrors”)

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