A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday


"I don't get no respect"

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

Friday, February 22, 2008

Late Winter Storm

The groundhog was right. After another relatively mild snowless winter, we finally had a significant snowfall.

The view out my backdoor:

Hmmm . . . I’m certain I left my car in the driveway last night.

How deep was the snow? Well, how tall is a gallon container? Those holes in the snow are the tops of my wintersowing.

I loved how the snow made little caps on the dead flowerheads.

Even small flowerheads like these Echinacea.

I took some photos to contrast with warmer weather later this year.



I wish I had taken more photos from different angles of my birdbath.

I love the “shadow” created by the bowl. This could have been very interesting.

You can see more pictures of the aftermath of the storm on Flickr.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

NJ Flower & Garden Show (Part 2)

This post is my personal opinion only. It in no way reflects the views of Rutgers Gardens or any of its staff. I am not a spokesperson for Rutgers Gardens.

After my sprint through the display gardens, I tried to slow down a bit so I could better appreciate the flower arranging. The artists/gardeners put a lot of effort into them and it showed. This year, the judges and I agreed more than last year. Here are some highlights:

This is one where we disagreed:

The judges loved the stick things in the bouquet. I hated them.

Read the comment card on this:

I’d love to be invited too!

Sometimes what’s wrong is glaringly obvious:

The judges and I agreed. The box just ruined it.

This was the winner:

I don’t usually like modern designs but I loved it.

Who throws their shoes on their books?

If only the designer could have found something Victorian other than the shoes. I loved the flowers, the lace, the photo album . . .

This is what took first place. The judges said it was stunning:

I too was stunned. This is art? This is first place? It looks like my garden shed. On a good day.

I should have checked to see if the same person submitted this and the controversial Rapunzel arrangement from last year.

Tsk, tsk.

Here’s the winner:

Much better! I’d love something like this on my front door, wouldn’t you?

As you can see, this one won big:

Sorry, it just doesn’t move me.

I really liked the owl better:

Besides being visually attractive, it’s made completely of plant material. I can’t imagine the time and effort it took to collect the materials and then assemble them. Honorable Mention is all it got.

Am I particularly attracted to pastels?

Once more I was more attracted to the Honorable Mention winner than the First Place winner:

That is so bright that it literally hurt my eyes.

Loved this:

And this:

And this:

I’m always wowed by the miniature arrangements:

And for our final disagreement . . .

The judges chose this:

While I preferred this:

There were more arrangements, more hits and misses, but I ran out of time. For some reason, my boss likes me to arrive on time every day. I’m hoping to get to Springfest next month. Until then, you can enjoy all my photos of the NJ Flower & Garden Show on Flickr.

Friday, February 15, 2008

NJ Flower & Garden Show 2008 (Part 1)

This post is my personal opinion only. It in no way reflects the views of Rutgers Gardens or any of its staff. I am not a spokesperson for Rutgers Gardens.

The NJ Flower & Garden Show was hugely disappointing this year. I adore touring the display gardens and tearing them to shreds in my blog. There wasn’t much to savage this year. There were only seven gardens rather than the usual dozen or so. And as “A” pointed out in an email to me, they just weren’t that creative. The overall theme for the show this year was “The Entertaining Garden-Party Among the Petals”.

Rutgers Gardens in conjunction with landscape architecture students from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (typing “Cook College” was soooo much easier!) did their usual great job. The students, who designed and built their garden as a class project, called their effort “The Games People Play: RU Game?”, a play on the Rutgers University name.

They included outdoor games and environmentally friendly details like this Green Wall:

Those are flats of plants placed vertically in the wall. Here’s my favorite part of the garden:

An interactive tic tac toe fountain! Don’t ask me how it works. My time at the show was extremely short this year. I was literally snapping pictures on the run.

Right next door was “Backyard Bliss”.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Fred Flintstone, right?

Bet you didn’t know that they planted in rows back in the Stone Age!!

Now, what we have here is a path, a picnic, a veggie garden and a flower garden, all in nice neat rows.

According to the blurb that accompanied the title, “Entertaining in a Jersey Fresh Garden”, is the assertion that this is a three-season patio. Maybe on the Isle of Jersey, but certainly not in NEW Jersey. In NEW Jersey, one needs walls and a roof during the spring and the fall. Next!

“Backyard Hot Spot! Cool Place!”

I’m giving them kudos for trying really hard not to plant in rows, but are they seriously trying to pass off this anemic fountain as “…water garden off the main patio, surrounded by lush plantings”?

I hope not because this is not the “…outdoor living space (I’ve) always dreamed of.”

Moving right along to “You’re Invited to a Martini Party”. This is what happens when you design the garden AFTER drinking the martinis:

When you figure out what it is, let me know. And in case you were wondering how large the martinis were . . .

“The Court Yard” made me dizzy. The “athletic courts” and fences were miniature but the flowers and hardscape were full-size.

It’s not as obvious in the pictures. I missed my Straw Hat buddies who are always willing to hop into a photo to provide scale.

Ah, “The Good Life”. Lights, flowers, a gazebo . . .

And who could resist this fountain?

This was hands down my favorite garden!

And this was my least favorite garden, “The Art of Outdoor Living”. Only part of an entire side of a “house” is showing in this photo:

And note all the sales literature and charts:

Honestly, until I looked at their sign, I thought they were selling aluminum siding!

Two other displays that caught my eye and slowed me down to look were orchids courtesy of Duke Farms:

And ikebana which I really wish I had been able to do more than glance at:

I slowed down a bit as I made my way through the flower arranging competition which deserves its own post. You can see all of my pictures of the flower show on Flickr.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Oops, I did it again . . .

One of the highlights of last year was winning first place in the digital color photo competition at the NJ Flower & Garden Show. Buoyed by that success, I kept an eye on the Garden Club of NJ website for information about this year’s competition. My heart sunk when the theme, “Welcome to My Garden”, was announced. It suggested to me a gate or an arch or a path into a garden. I couldn’t think of a single photo that I had taken that would fit.

My own garden has a gate, but it’s part of an ugly chainlink fence. I don’t think that I’ve ever photographed it. Rutgers Gardens has a lovely gate in the fence around the veggie plots, but I’ve never been able to figure out a way to attractively photograph it. I wasn’t satisfied with any of the photos of my favorite bridge at Rutgers Gardens either.

I was in despair until a friend suggested that Longwood Gardens most likely had the structures I was looking for. I went through the hundreds of photos I have taken there and came up with this:

Granted, the photo is about the pitcher plant, but in the background there is a path leading to an archway through a hedge. You can just see the garden on the other side. What I’ve always loved about this photo are the lush greens and the serenity of the scene. It kinda sorta fit the theme. Good enough. One can’t expect to win every year.

For my black and white submission, I wanted something that looked like old photographs of cottage gardens. My favorite cottage garden is at NYBG. It even has a gazebo.

After grayscaling, it looks like this:

Yesterday was Registration Day for all the competitions. Like last year, the weather was terrible. I think there is a law that the day everyone has to carry their labors of love across a parking lot while dodging box trucks, vans, forklifts and pedestrians whose vision is obscured by umbrellas, the weather has to be abominable. Last year it was a blizzard. This year it was flooding rains.

There were other photographers registering at the same time as I. Being nosy, I asked to see their photos. Wow! There were some great ones that really put mine to shame. The most that anyone else was able to say about my efforts was a polite “nice”. It was going to be interesting to see how the judges ranked the entries. I couldn’t make up my mind which one was “best”.

Judging took place this morning before the show opened at 1 PM. I was at the Rutgers Gardens exhibit at noon to begin my shift. Okay, I’ll admit it. I kept running over to see if the judging had finished. This is still new and exciting for me. The show opened with a ribbon cutting and lots of speeches, then the crowds from the buses poured in. As soon as I decently could, I broke away from my greeting duties of handing out seed packets and information about classes at Rutgers Gardens and headed over to the photo competition.

Just like last year, the first photos I spotted were the black and white. Third Place, an improvement over the Honorable Mention I had earned last year. I moved on to the color photos. And there was the familiar First Place blue ribbon hanging on my photo.