A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Perfect Day

50°F (10°C). Global warming notwithstanding, there aren’t going to be many more balmy days this winter. I took advantage of the unseasonable warmth to do something I haven’t done in years: plant all of the bulbs that I ordered. Every year, it seems that I have more bulbs than time to plant them. Or the weather doesn’t cooperate. Or my schedule gets hectic. It really hurts to throw out unplanted bulbs.

I was very happy to be able to throw on a sweatshirt, grab my box of leftover bulbs and spend time outside deciding where I needed color next spring and digging in the dirt. Today I planted:

50 Fritillaria assyriaca
40 giant crocuses for naturalizing
6 Narcissus “Baby Moon”
5 “Little Gem” daffodils

Total bulbs planted this fall: 256 + 3 trillium + 3 peonies + 1 Jack Frost Brunnera

I'm looking forward to spring.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Book Club

I have to admit to a certain hesitancy when Two Gardeners: Katherine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence – A Friendship in Letters was chosen for the February 2007 selection for GBBC. After all, it’s rude to read other people’s correspondence. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Both the writers and the writing were so engaging that by the end of the book, I felt as if we were old friends. Based on that, I was looking forward to this month’s selection, Dear Friend & Gardener: Letters on Life and Gardening by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd.

I had trouble with this book. I just couldn’t get into it. Was it because I don’t share the authors’ fascination with the many types of snowdrops? Or maybe because I don’t care for opera? And what exactly does opera have to do with gardening? Perhaps it was the writing. The letters were more esoteric discussions than chatty correspondence between two gardeners who are also close friends. Are the English more formal in their letter-writing?

The answer, of course, is that these are not “real” letters. They are merely a literary device suggested and edited by publishers. This was hinted at by Mr. Lloyd in his introduction but I didn’t catch on until the very end when the “correspondence” drew to a close. I read the entire book under the impression that I was reading genuine letters originally written with no thought of future publication. Once it was revealed that the “letters” were written specifically to be published in book form, I felt cheated. It should have been clearly stated at the beginning that this is a collection of essays addressed to each other so that the reader is not led to think that s/he is about to be privy to something special.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


There was a population explosion among my African violets this summer. Almost every pot is in violation of official occupancy restrictions.

Just one problem. If I split everyone up, then I don’t have enough room to accommodate all the new pots. Once more, the outdoor plant stand has been pressed into service.

My poor aloe, on the other hand, is in dire need of larger accommodations. It has become so top heavy that it constantly falls over, breaking or injuring its branches.

A larger and heavier pot should prevent any further flopping.

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

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Solstice Means Winter Sowing

Finally! The day I have been waiting for. Time to start my winter sowing. I’m a little worried, though. I only have 55 containers. I hope that it’s enough.

This winter sowing is a sickness, isn’t it?

To start me off, I have seeds from the Joe Pye Weed around the parking lot of Holly House at Rutgers Gardens. Also gathered “without permission”, seeds from some kind of lilies. I was having dinner at a restaurant with a patio and there was the nicest stand of lilies that had bloomed and set seed. I have no idea what color they are, but I gathered seeds anyway. My non-gardening dinner companion was mortified. Maybe Carol should add “embarrassing friends and family by harvesting seeds from public areas” to her list of Gardening Geek characteristics.

“Legally” gathered from my own gardens are Bachelors’ Buttons, Nigella and Blackberry lilies. The Blackberry lilies fall into the “experimental” category. The squirrels kept eating the seed pods before they ripened. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I harvested all of the seedpods and dried them indoors. The resulting seed is shriveled and dull rather than round and shiny. I don’t know if they are viable so I didn’t offer any on the Garden Bloggers’ Seed Exchange. If they are viable, I will offer seed next year. “Legally” gathered from the Rutgers Gardens Herb Bed are chive seeds for the Accidental Herb Bed.

I participated in two trades on the GBSE. I now have parsley for my Butterfly/Hummingbird bed from Colleen and coreopsis from Gina.

Kerri was kind enough to send me seeds for both pink and white dicentra in exchange for some columbine seed. I love Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts! The white will go into my new White Garden which has Dutchman’s Breeches and white chelone from Well Sweep Herb Farm. I plan on adding white foxglove and variegated hosta to complete the shady bed.

It’s so good to have my hands in the dirt again.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I hunted all over for flowers for GBBD today. There were none in my slush covered gardens. There were none adorning my African violets. I was about to put away my camera when I remembered this.

My christmas tree is covered with flowers.

It's a veritable garden. There are pinecones and icicles.

A cardinal and a wise old owl.

The Antarctic must be really warm if penguins are seeking refuge in New Jersey!

Looks like this butterfly didn't make the migration.

And he brought a friend.

Oh, no! a pesky squirrel.

Maybe this naughty kitty that climbed the tree will chase him away.

I've finished my Christmas shopping.

Even bought some bubbly for New Years.

We've been getting an unusual amount of snow this December with more predicted for tonight.

Santa will be here soon.

Holiday wishes to everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Totally OT

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Every room in my house is decorated, even my bathroom. The Christmas tree is a glittering triumph, covered with my ever growing collection of glass ornaments. But how do you keep three cats away from a big, shiny toy?

You place the tree in the front window and move the cat tree from there to its new location next to the secretary, the highest point in the house which can only be accessed for a few weeks each year. The top platform of the cat tree loses its appeal as a coveted perch and instead becomes the launch pad for furry rockets on their way to the tippy top of the one piece of furniture that cannot normally be reached.

That’s Rory, who joined our family in May. I posted this picture of him soon after his arrival. He was just skin and bones covered with scraggly fur. It’s amazing what a few months of quality food and lots of TLC can do. He has filled out nicely. I’m no longer afraid that he will break when I pick him up. His coat is silky and lustrous, rivaling that of my purebred Maine Coon. He loves people, naturally assuming the role of Official Greeter. “A” tells me that he is quite a conversationalist. He rarely talks to me, preferring instead to stretch out on my lap, eyes closed, kneading my belly while purring up a storm.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday


It’s amazing what my houseplants have been up to this summer while my attention was focused on the gardens outside.

When did this happen?

Just last April I posted a photo of my plant room. The hanging pot had a couple of baby spider plants in it. Now look at them, all grown up with babies of their own!

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

Thursday, December 06, 2007

You Never Know . . .

You never know who is reading your blog. Apparently Marty Wingate of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is reading my blog. He recently wrote an article on garden blogs that mentions this one and my cats' blogs.

My thanks to the Ranters, who are also mentioned in the article, for the link.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday



This winter season couldn’t more different from last year when it stayed warm until February. Last year at this time I had snowdrops blooming. This year we have had first snow flurries and today our first significant snowfall. It was only about an inch but still unusual for this time of year in New Jersey. We don’t usually get significant snowfalls until January.

As noted in my previous posts, I am working nights again. I was so tired when I got home this morning that I didn’t even think to take any pictures of the snow.

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

Saturday, December 01, 2007


I wasn’t only playing with compost on Thursday. I’m back working nights three days a week, so I used my “day off” to get a lot of needed yardwork done. My first “chore” was to clean out the Butterfly/Hummingbird bed and re-plant it.

My butterfly bush, located next to the Accidental Herb Garden, dropped a few seeds in it resulting in two seedlings. At first I panicked. What was I going to do with more butterfly bushes? Duh! I have a Butterfly/Hummingbird bed, the perfect place for a butterfly bush. So those seedlings got transplanted to their new home. Next I tried to divide the perennial foxglove. That was tough. I may not have been successful. I was more successful in moving one of the Blackberry lilies. The bed is more balanced now without all of the plants on one side.

Finally I planted bulbs:

12 Darwin tulips
5 Copper Queen daffodils

I’m still trimming back perennials. And it was time to get rid of the rosebushes that didn’t make it. The Zephirine Drouhin lost its battle with the squirrels. Or so I thought. When I went to remove it, I noticed some new growth:

It’s probably growing from the rootstock and most likely won’t make it through the winter. And if it does, the squirrels will make short work of it next spring, but I left it in place anyways. Anything trying that hard deserves a chance.

Last winter, I winter sowed wild purple foxglove which also became squirrel victims. Three plants managed to survive. Thanks to some over-enthusiastic weeding, I accidentally destroyed one of those plants. Of the two that are left, the one in the Purple Garden got over-shadowed by some Japanese iris and didn’t grow very much.

Hmmm . . . something’s been chewing on that! This is what it is supposed to look like:

I have high hopes for this one growing in the Wildflower Garden. I will be winter sowing more of these over the winter.

Finally, it was time to start emptying my overflowing composter. Taking my cue from “Teaming with Microbes”, I top-dressed the beds instead of scratching it in as I used to. I know this us probably not the right time of year to be doing this, but as you saw from the photos, I desperately need to make some room in my composter. I will be adding steadily to it over the winter when I do more cooking than in the summer months. So steadily that I actually wear a path in the backyard to the composter. Even more reason to get rid of my lawn.