A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Friday, November 30, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Book Club

I was very happy when “Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden” by Eleanor Perenyi was chosen for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. I checked this book out of my local library about four years ago and liked it so much that I added it to my Wishlist on Amazon.com for purchase so that I could re-read it at my leisure. This was the perfect opportunity to finally buy the book and read it again.

The author and I are kindred spirits. We garden organically, prefer heirlooms, abhor lawns and lawnmowers, and adore compost. I have to keep reminding myself that she was writing in 1981, long before any of these things were “fashionable”.

Her writing is lighthearted and very readable. Even the essays on vegetables, which I don’t grow, are enjoyable. I especially like her exasperation at unclear directions. It’s nice to know that other gardeners have the same difficulties with unclear instructions that I do.

Each essay is complete in itself, so the book can be read right through or you can skip around. I’m so glad that I finally have my own copy. It’s one of those books that I will read over and over.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Black Gold

This is what goes into the top.

This is what comes out of the bottom.

Compost, baby!

Black Gold.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Review: The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Garden Wisdom by Niall Edworthy

In 2003, Niall Edworthy and his family purchased a home in West Sussex, England. It had a yard, a shed and a vegetable patch. He describes his first attempt at growing vegetables as a disaster. He bought a couple of books, asked advice from neighbors and the second year was merely pathetic. He decided to get serious about this gardening business and took a course, bought more books, bothered everyone who was willing to talk gardening and ended up with a “half-decent” garden the third year.

He has distilled all of the garden wisdom he collected from courses, books, other gardeners and his own experiences into a marvelous little book, “The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Garden Wisdom”. It’s neither a narrative nor a real almanac. Even the author has difficulty defining exactly what it is.

It’s arranged by season, but you can dip into it at any point. Along with the usual plant lists, natural pest deterrents, and recipes, he includes historical information in the introduction of plants, the origin of many of their names and interesting facts such as ⅔ of the world’s eggplants are grown in New Jersey. How about the invention of the wheelbarrow? Or how to test soil temperature? He suggests using your elbow but originally one dropped one’s pants and sat. My favorite was his compost recipe which contains human urine. Seriously.

Participants of the Garden Bloggers’ Muse Day should definitely pick up a copy of this book. Each season is introduced by quotes and more quotes are scattered throughout the text. There are the usual suspects, Thomas Jefferson, Celia Thaxter, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Prince Charles and there are the unexpected, Cervantes, Galileo, Charlemagne, the Koran. Also offered are proverbs from Greece, ancient Egypt, China and Arabic speakers.

The last chapter is on children and gardening. It offers lots of fun facts and activities such as building a ladybug house and growing your initials.

This would be a great holiday gift for gardeners, beginners through the most experienced and anyone interested in the history of gardening, plants and tools.

Available at Amazon.com and Powells.com.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Straw Hat Thanksgiving

My fellow Strawhatter, "A" and I share a love of gardening and cooking. We pooled our talents and recipes today.

You can find the menu for our feast on our blog, The Wooden Spoon. We will be posting the recipes, including A's Top Secret Apple Pie, in the coming days.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

And now catalogs . . .

The spring catalogs arrive earlier and earlier each year. I haven't finished planting my fall bulbs and already catalogs are filling my mailbox. Today the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog came. I couldnt' resist a quick peek inside. Yes! They are still offering the huge scarlet zinnias that I love for my hummingbird garden. They also have a nice selection of herbs. Three kinds of mustard, white, black, and brown. Hmmm . . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

First Snow

The weatherman was calling for snow today. Hah! Fat chance. Then I looked out the window. It was snowing! Just flurries. No accumulation. In all the years that I’ve lived in New Jersey, I don’t believe I have ever seen it snow this early in the year. It was magical.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


Sorry, I have no idea what this is. It was growing on the fence around the veggie plots at Rutgers Gardens. I was at the Gardens yesterday to do some sorely needed work on the Herb Bed. I haven't been out to the Gardens in weeks due to illness and a crazy work schedule. A few hours made a lot of difference in the way the Herb Bed looks. The Head Hatter took an inventory of what's there while I worked so that we can make plans for next year. I also brought some cuttings from the Tricolor sage and Golden sage in my Accidental Herb Garden at home to replace the sages that the Rugers Gardens ground hogs ate over the summer. The cuttings are in snug in the greenhouse now. By next spring they should be big healthy plants and ready for their debut in the Herb Bed.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


Last January, a fellow Master Gardener who has a huge Night Blooming Cereus, was helping to clean out the home of a friend who has passed away and who had a Night Blooming Cereus that was originally a cutting from his own. He had no room in his house for it, so he was transporting it to another friend’s home. In the process, a small piece broke off which he was kind enough to give to me.

I was able to successfully root it but then it did nothing for months. I had never grown a Night Blooming Cereus before so I had no idea what to expect. When spring arrived, I turned my attention to my gardens and other than watering it regularly, paid no attention to it.

I still have a few chores left to do outside, but my focus is turning back to my houseplants, which ones need repotting, which ones need dividing. I took a good look at my Night Blooming Cereus and realized that it had grown tremendously. It has many new leaves. If you click on the photo and enlarge it, you will see that it has two new shoots.

By the way, this is the same set of windows that was in my very first Green Thumb Sunday post. I still haven’t painted the trim, but I did paint the walls. How do you like that purple?

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

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pictures of the Frost

Working nights has its drawbacks. By the time I get home in the morning, I’m so tired that my brain is not working properly. I tend to forget details like taking pictures of the first frost. So here are the plants that I was trying to describe yesterday after they have struggled through two cold nights.


Lion's Tail

Please note that the flower in the photo is a zinnia. The Lion’s Tail never bloomed this year.


The tithonia looks very sad. Even sadder is the cosmos in front of it. It’s brown not because of the frost but because I allowed it to set seed for next year.

Some plants seem to be enjoying the cold temperatures.

Jack Frost Brunnera



Golden Sage

Tricolor Sage

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I’m working nights this week, covering for a vacationing employee. It was 37 F (3 C) when I left my house last night. My car was covered with frost when I left the office this morning.

It wasn’t a killing frost but the tender plants definitely felt it. The Lion’s Tail (which never bloomed for me) and the Tithonia are drooping. Even the nasturtiums that had been threatening to take over my driveway were overcome by the cold.

The good news is that I can remove the annuals from the Butterfly/Hummingbird bed and not feel guilty about destroying perfectly good plants. I have a lot of work to do in that bed, moving perennials and planting bulbs.

Snow flurries predicted for this weekend!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


I’m finally feeling better and what better way to celebrate than to spend a few hours enjoying a warm fall day? Last week I had dug up some more turf, enlarging the Entry Garden and making room for more bulbs. I planted the lily flower tulips and then another pastel color collection of tulips. When I was ordering bulbs over the summer, I remembered my vow to plant more yellow daffodils.

For the Entry Garden, I ordered

Pineapple Prince

And because I have fallen on love with double daffs

Golden Beauty

Then I raked leaves and trimmed away dead foliage in various beds.

I’m going to be spending the next few days washing windows. The temperatures are predicted to be much colder this coming week. It’s time for me to lower the storm windows. I’ll give all the windows a good cleaning while I’m at it.

Maybe we’ll finally get a frost and I can clean out the Butterfly/Hummingbird bed and plant the rest of my bulbs.

Total for today:

6 pink lily flowered tulips
6 white lily flowered tulips
20 Candy Coloured mixed tulips
5 Pineapple Prince daffodils
5 Golden Beauty daffodils

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