A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Decorations

When I was a child (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), we were taught never to walk on our neighbors’ lawns. We were only allowed to step on paved areas. No short cuts were allowed through people’s yards either. Times change. Now children are allowed to walk, run and ride their bicycles wherever they please. Even if you want to make your yard off-limits, you cannot. That is considered “disciplining other peoples’ children”. So the local children are free to turn my neighbor’s large corner yard into an impromptu soccer or baseball field and my front yard becomes a parking lot for their bicycles.

You would think that it would have occurred to me as I was planning and digging it, that my Entry Garden sits right across the Right of Way to my front door. Alas, I didn’t realize it until last fall, a few days before Halloween. Quite a dilemma! Do I sacrifice my plants and labor to the Trick or Treaters or do I risk the wrath of the entire neighborhood and force everyone to only use the paved areas of my yard?

I decided upon wrath and bought yellow caution tape at Home Depot. I placed plant stakes at all the corners of the bed and wrapped the entire area with tape. Adding insult to injury, I wasn’t home that evening. My work hours are 4 PM to midnight. The experiment was a success. No footprints in the soil or TP festooning my trees. My door was egg- and soap-free.

I put up my “Halloween Decorations” again this year but this time, I took pictures:

Yes, I know that the poles are askew. So am I. I’m battling either the world’s worst cold or a mild case of the flu. Every square inch of my body hurts.

And in case you are wondering why I don’t just install a walkway from my front door directly to the street, that has already been tried. When I moved into this house, there was a walk with steps accommodating the slope of the yard from the door to the curb. Apparently the concrete was too hard on the feet and/or the steps were too strenuous. My lawn has always been the preferred route to my front door.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

More Bulbs

It poured for the past two days and now I only have today left of my vacation. Time to get cracking and get my bulbs planted. Before I got started, I took a quick look around the areas where I had planted bulbs and spread the hot peppers. The rain didn’t seem to make any difference. There is no evidence of squirrel depredations.

I started in the Purple Garden with the Queen of the Night tulips and then the Purple Dreams collection. I moved to the very back of my yard and added Red Riding Hood tulips in the same area as I had planted them last year.

I need a hard frost to kill off all the annuals in the Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden. That is where I have decided to plant the Darwin Tulips. In the meantime, I planted Tahiti daffs:

I have another orphan bulb: Geranium daffodils

Since they are heirlooms (introduced 1930), I decided to put them in the Accidental Herb Garden with the Burgundy Lace tulips.

Finally, I headed over to the Entry Garden to widen it in to create homes for all the bulbs I had ordered for it. I knocked off early today. I’m tired and achy. I hope I’m not getting sick.

Totals for today:

6 Queen of the Night tulips
10 Shirley tulips (Purple Dreams collection)
10 Zurel tulips (Purple Dreams collection)
10 Attila tulips (Purple Dreams collection)
6 Red Riding Hood tulips
5 Tahiti daffodils
6 Geranium daffodils

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bulbs, finally

The promised rain showed up only briefly yesterday but tomorrow and the next day are supposed to be deluges. I spent the day getting as many bulbs into the ground as I could. The first order of the day was to finish clearing out and trimming back the border along the Ugly Green Fence.

Then it was time to plant. First to go in were the single peonies. Next were alliums.

Allium aflatunense

Garden blogs are definitely dangerous to my pocket books. In addition to the Jack Frost Brunnera, I fell in love with alliums pictured in so many gardens. The Allium aflatunense is an heirloom circa 1902.

Last to be planted were the parrot tulips. About halfway down the border I looked back to where I had started and there was a squirrel digging up my newly planted bulbs. I saw red. Literally. Not content with my usual strategy of covering my bulbs with leaves to mask the scent of the freshly dug earth, I instead dashed into my kitchen, opened my spice cabinet and pulled out the cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper. I didn’t want to hide, I wanted to hurt.

After chasing the squirrel out of the border, I liberally sprinkled both peppers over all areas where I had put my bulbs.

That picture is actually of the Accidental Herb Garden where I next planted the Burgundy Lace tulips.

My final stop was the Shade Garden where I planted Trillium Sessile and hardy cyclamen. I loved the cyclamen bulbs. They were huge and flat. Again, I sprinkled cayenne and crushed red pepper over everything.

Total for today:

3 peonies
10 allium
12 assorted parrot tulips
10 green parrot tulips
6 Burgundy Lace tulips
3 trillium
5 cyclamen

I have my fingers crossed that the rain doesn’t wash away all that hot pepper squirrel deterrent.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Accidental Herb Garden

Today I tackled what has become known as the Accidental Herb Garden.

It started out last spring as the beginnings of a garden room. I’m re-designing my backyard into a series of garden rooms. I want to eventually eliminate the lawn completely and instead have paths through different areas or “rooms”. I started by extending the bed where the butterfly bush anchors the corner of the shed. I stopped after only a few feet because I realized that I had no idea what I was going to plant there!

It became the bed where I put things I didn’t know what to do with. First it was the hyssop. I don’t remember where I planted it originally, but it got moved here. Next were a Golden Sage and a Tricolor Sage that I bought at the same time I purchased the Pineapple Sage for my Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden. Then I moved some Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot) from a too-shady spot where it was really languishing to the new catch-all bed. When some dill popped up probably thanks to the birds, I realized that I had an informal herb garden and christened it the “Accidental Herb Garden”.

The weeds have taken over, especially at the end where I never really finished removing the turf. I also had to throw caution to the wind and dig up some more lawn. I have to laugh at myself. I brag about my aversion to lawns and how I want to eliminate mine, but I am finding it difficult to actually dig up the lawn. I am a child of the suburbs where lawns reign supreme. The men (and now women) compete to have the best looking lawn. It actually hurts me to destroy mine. But I persevere.

After digging, weeding and trimming, it was time to move some plants. Moving in from the now defunct Green Garden were six Lady’s Mantles.

From the same bed, came St. John’s Wort. The Wild Bergamot got moved to the end of the bed because it had done so well in its new home and was crowding the sages which also did well.



The St. John’s Wort is difficult to see in the above picture because at this stage, it is just stems with no foliage.

Then I moved on to the Purple Garden. The Lamb’s Ear is concentrated in one spot and I wanted to start spreading it out.

This bed is round. Next spring, I will square it off. Eventually, it will be extended to enclose another room. While I was digging up the Lamb’s Ear, I found some catnip which was moved to, you guessed it, the Accidental Herb Garden.

I started out my day by transplanting three peonies from the border along the Ugly Green Fence to the Entry Garden in front. I’m counting on the fact that peonies are tough. I’m having difficulties finding things that do well in that bed.

All of this frantic transplanting is being done because it is supposed to rain tomorrow which should get everything off to a good start.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

Rutgers Gardens sponsored its final trip for its volunteers today. Our destination was the renowned sculpture gardens at Pepsico World Headquarters in Purchase, New York. The gardens are approximately 168 acres and contain 45 works by major twentieth century artists.

Truthfully, I hadn’t been looking forward to this trip. I am a complete barbarian when it comes to art. Painting, sculpture, even poetry does nothing for me. Hence my non-participation in the Garden Bloggers’ Muse Day. The last thing I wanted to do was to spend an afternoon traipsing around staring at a bunch of sculptures that look nothing like what they represent. If you must inflict art on me, at least do me the favor of having it look like something.

After all of my dread, what caught and held my attention at the gardens were the trees.

Acres and acres of trees.

There were old favorites like willows.

And my new favorite, beeches.

There were gardens too

This is a family friendly blog so I am not showing a close-up of the little statue. He is “anatomically correct”.

I’m including this photo of the Autumn Garden especially for the volunteer who called me a “Camera Nazi” when I asked her to step out of the shot.

This is the entrance to the Stream Garden which is surrounded by a deer fence.

Doesn’t it look like a doorway to a Secret Garden?

But, oh, the trees.

There was also a small lake.

It has the biggest koi I have ever seen. One of the volunteers threw some bread in the water to attract them so she could photograph them.

When she did that, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard swam over to join the feast. Look at the size of those fish! Some of them are larger than the ducks.

I really should include a picture of some sculpture, shouldn’t I?

This was our favorite one.

More pictures of my tour of the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens can be seen on Flickr.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time To Plant Perennials

Believe it or not, I still have plants from my trip to Well Sweep Herb Farm in August that haven't been planted. And an iris from the Master Gardener picnic plant swap, the clematis from my local nursery and now my Jack Frost brunnera are also waiting for new homes. From the Master Gardener picnic plant swap last year, a heuchera needs to be moved. With the exception of the iris, all of these plants were destined for the front of my house.

First order of business for my fall planting vacation: widen the front border. Thanks to the recent rain and the fact that I am not a lawn person, the sod came up easily. Here are the brunnera, a heuchera and a primrose settling in:

The heuchera I got at a plant swap last year was originally planted in my semi-shady garden but it was too close to the birdfeeder. When it tried to bloom this year, the squirrels munched the flower stalk. I've moved it to the other side of the mum in the above picture.

Around the side of the house, I planted the clematis to climb a hook for one of my hanging baskets.

There are asters and a rosebush to keep its roots nice and shady.

Then it was time to tackle this:

That's my border along the Ugly Green Fence. It got completely out of control this year. First the Canterbury Bells that wouldn't die and shaded out the annuals and then the Rudbeckia took over. I'm taking it a section at a time, weeding and trimming. The lawn is a mess because my mower died a few weeks ago. I didn't bother replacing it because I figured the weather would get cold and the grass would stop growing. Who knew we were going to have the warmest October on record and the grass would grow like it was spring?

In this border, I cleaned out a section, planted my new iris, moved my Baboon's Bottom iris to the same section where it will get more light and hopefully actually bloom. While I was at it, I moved an iris that was half in and half out of the Hyacinth Bean tepee. I don't know if I'm going to try another tepee, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to move it just in case.

By the way, does anyone know how to tell when hyacinth beans are ripe? I would like to save seed from the few vines that grew but I don't know when to harvest the pods.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Houston, we have a problem . . .

Next week I'm taking the entire week off from work to do my fall planting/transplanting. Thanks to the recent drought, I wasn't able to do any preparation ahead of time in my beds. It's kind of difficult to dig new beds and enlarge old ones when the ground is so hard that you can't get a shovel into it. I've been reviewing my bulb purchases so I can plan a little strategy to get as much done as possible during my week off.

I went a little overboard on tulips this year. I'm enlarging the entry garden which has pink daffs and pastel tulips already. I'm adding Candy Coloured tulips:

Last spring, my neighbors across the street had the loveliest white lily tulips. I'm adding pink ones and white ones to my entry garden:

After years of agonizing, I've finally decided what to plant along the Ugly Green Fence. Parrot Tulips! The dark green should really show off their vibrant colors. I ordered two types. An assortment and then some green ones.

In the accidental herb garden, I'm planting tulips that were popular when I was a child, now considered heirlooms. Burgundy Lace tulips.

I loved the Red Riding tulips so much this spring that I'm adding more.

For the Purple Garden, I ordered a "Purple Dreams Collection" and some Queen of the Night tulips.

And last, but not least, I ordered this lovely collection of Darwin tulips to plant in the . . .

Oh, no! I can't remember where I wanted to put these. All those spreadsheets with catalog names, bulb names, number of bulbs and nowhere did I record where I was going to plant anything.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Master Gardener Newsletter

The latest edition of “The Garden Spade”, the Middlesex County Master Gardener newsletter, is now available on the web. This was a tough one to get out. Not everyone was able to meet the deadline to get their articles in and I missed my deadline putting it together because I was finishing up work on the program for the Garden Gala at Rutgers Gardens.

A lot of people worked very hard to make it happen in a timely fashion. Good thing too, because the deadline for articles for the next issue is only a month away! Looks like I’ll be spending my holidays in front of the computer arranging articles and photos.

Next year, we plan on quarterly newsletters. I wonder when any of us will have time to garden?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

I fell in love with Jack Frost Brunnera when I saw it in a magazine. I think it was one of their featured plants. One look at the prices in the catalogs (Whiteflower Farm wanted $20.95 for ONE!) and I decided to wait a few years until it became more common and the gardening world had moved on to the next “it” plant.

Garden blogs, especially those with great photos, have become my downfall. I can resist photos in catalogs and magazines because they have been photo-shopped to look their best. Garden bloggers on the other hand, other than a quick tidy-up of the plant and surrounding area, post “real” photos of the plants in their gardens. Right? You guys aren’t manipulating colors, sizes or shapes?

This past spring it seems every other garden blog was sporting mouth-watering pictures of Jack Frost Brunnera. It was torture. I just HAD to have one. I looked all over locally but couldn’t find any (and this fall, I still can’t). I hated to order from a catalog because the plants are tiny and very often not in the best of shape when they arrive.

I finally succumbed to temptation and plunked down $16.95 plus shipping to Dutch Gardens. If you know somewhere where I could have gotten it cheaper, please keep it to yourself. I have never spent so much money on a single plant in my entire life!

Today, FedEx delivered a humongous carton to my doorstep. I figured it had to be one of my mega bulb orders but it felt awfully light for dozens of bulbs. I opened it and found this:

Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s HUGE! And healthy. And I so hope that I don’t kill it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Welcome to October in my garden. There is lots of color.

The weather has been exceptionally mild this fall, so I still have impatiens brightening my containers.

Hush, don’t tell anyone, but I have mums like everyone else.

The annuals are putting on quite a show.

Cleome and annual Rudbeckia

And guess who FINALLY decided to grace us with an appearance?

The much lamented Hyacinth Beans!

The monarchs are long gone, but the butterfly bush still has a few blooms.

The hydrangeas have assumed their fall colors.

And inside my house . . .

African Violets grace my windowsill.