Saturday, May 31, 2008

Picture of a Golden-banded Skipper (Autochton cellus) on Jewel Weed (Impatiens capensis)

I saw a tiny (about an inch and a half across) little butterfly that I had never seen in my garden before. As you can see in the picture, she is all black with a distinctive yellow band on her wings. Looking at my butterfly books, she appears to be a Golden-banded Skipper. In flight, given the rapid fluttering and an erratic flight pattern, the yellow band almost looks like a vibrating circle. She didn't stay still for very long, so was happy that I was able to dash back into the house, grab my camera, and snap this one picture before she said goodbye.

Container Gardening: Summer Containers



Thursday, May 29, 2008

How to See Beautiful Private Gardens: The Garden Conservancy's Open Days

As a follow-up to my prior post about the Garden Conservancy, I was excited to read about their upcoming Open Days. Valerie Sudol of the Star-Ledger writes:

"The Open Days program kicks off on May 31 in New Jersey, when a garden in Somerset County and another in Hunterdon County throw open the gates to visitors.

River Run Farm in Bedminster is a horse farm estate dating to the 1920s, with formal gardens designed in 1980 by John Smith. These include a walled pool garden, a wisteria-draped gazebo, woodland and courtyard gardens, and a vast collection of shade-loving plants.

Woodlove, a garden in Glen Gardner, was created over a 30-year period and includes perennial gardens, collections of fern and hosta species, and a stream terminating in a frog pond. The six-acre property has been divided into "garden rooms," each with its own character.

The Open Days program continues through Sept. 6, with visits scheduled to gardens in Essex, Bergen and Union counties."

Hopefully, when we're not going to ballet or baseball, we can make some of the ones in New Jersey. They are also taking place in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. For the complete schedule, check out the Garden Conservancy's website.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Wonderful Day Trip to Well-Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murray, New Jersey

Heirloom plants, especially non-culinary herbs and plants of the American prairie, run throughout my garden. This weekend I found some wonderful new additions at Well-Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murray, New Jersey, about an hour away from Chatham. For a while, this has been on my most-wanted-to-visit list of nurseries. Boy, what a treat it was.
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The setting of the nursery is beautiful. It's four acres, surrounded by over 100 acres of undeveloped land. The parking lot is a grass field. Sheep graze along the periphery. An informal herb garden meets you as you get out of your car, then there are plants for sale, the gift shop, and a formal herb garden. It was a treat to talk to Cy who started the nursery forty years ago. He knew each plant's history, how to use it, and cultural information that only comes from years of experience.
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I was amazed by the breath of the collection. One of my favorite herbs is rue. Well Sweep had at least seven varieties from which to choose. I didn't even know there was such variation in rue. As for thyme, there are over 100 varieties for sale. If you can't get to the Herb Farm, plants are described and available in their mail order catalog which is available on their website:
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"...In 1966, husband and wife, Cyrus and Louise Hyde, purchased an old run-down house and a piece of property. With a background in farming and a passion for gardening, what began as a homestead gradually transformed and grew into a national attraction...Our farm, a family endeavor...is home to one of the largest collections of herbs and perennials in the country...Our butterfly, herb, medicinal, perennial and rock gardens burst forth with breathtaking displays throughout the farm and have been featured in national magazines and books. Our brick-pathed formal herb garden boasts a knot garden, as well as a display of the 37 basils, 75 lavenders, 54 rosemarys, 108 thymes, and 72 scented-leaf geranium varieties that we stock. Whether for pleasure, inspiration, or ideas ... come see the possibilities..."
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On a side note: those native orange rocks that I was recently posting about,Cy has cleared all of them and used them to make large, attractive walls. Next time, I'll bring my camera.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Vegetable Gardening with Children: How to Plant Corn with Fish the Way Squanto Taught the Pilgrims

Here is another good gardening project to do with children. Using the Old Farmer's Almanac Calendar as a guide, the kids and I planted our corn last week.
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There is a well-known and amazing story about how Squanto--the Native American captured and sold into and escaped from European slavery--befriended and taught the bewildered and hungry English pilgrims how to plant corn using fish as fertilizer, which was later harvested and eaten at the first Thanksgiving.
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Inspired by this story, we used whole fish as fertilizer last year, which worked quite well, and repeated it again this year as follows:
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1. Catch (or buy) some fresh whole fish.
2. Dig a hole several inches deep and add your fish.
3. Plant your kernels (or seedlings) on top of the fish.
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Related posts: Ten Tips for Planning a Children's Garden, How to Build Raised Vegetable Beds, Organically Preparing the Soil for Planting

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop: Stone in the Garden

I love stone in the garden. It is the perfect complement to all of my plants. As a part of this month's Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop over at Gardening Gone Wild, here is a brief post about how I have slowly replaced man-made materials with stone throughout my garden.
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1. The Bluestone Paths, Stairs, and Walls. If you garden on a hill, a stone staircase cannot be beat for practical and aesthetic reasons. They are beautiful and maintenance free. Compared to the small staircase of railroad ties that I have in a less prominent part of the garden, the stone staircase is much more attractive and will never need to be replaced.

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As I wrote in a post last month, I have just completed a four year project to redesign my Front Border. The most dramatic change was to replace the relatively unattractive and uneven man-made path of interlocking pavers with a continuation of the bluestone paths and stairs on Goldberry Hill. I am so pleased with the outcome, I only wonder why it took me so long to do it.
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2. The Pebble Path. I love pebble paths, but it is difficult to have them when you live and garden on a slope, as I do.
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The one path that is relatively flat is the one through the Egg Garden, where I replaced some terra cotta stepping stones with pebbles. When I look back at the posted before and after pictures, I can't believe how much better the pebbles look.
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When I first conceived of the path, my first choice was the grey pea gravel that you see in all of those English gardens, but my local nursery was out of stock. As an alternative, I selected yellow river stones, with which I have been very pleased.
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3. The Dry Laid Walls of Native Stones. If you have ever visited my region of New Jersey, you will see orange rocks everywhere: on the sides of the road, on the edges of properties, and even on the edges of garden beds. Every time I try to dig a hole, they are waiting for me: small, medium, large, and even giant-sized orange rocks. And unlike those beautiful, grey rocks that can be handsomely stacked into walls, these rocks are so unshapely that it's impossible to dry lay them more than one or two layers high, which is exactly what I did to create the walls in my Walled Garden.
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Two end notes: First, if you want to see a garden with a lot of beautiful stone, check out fsorin's inspiring post on Gardening Gone Wild. Second, have you ever wondered where all of the bluestone comes from? There was an interesting article last week in the New York Times about some of the local tri-state area quarries.
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mad for Cranesbill Geraniums: Where to Plant, How to Maintain, Where to Buy

My cranesbill geraniums have just begun blooming this week. I love them. As cut flowers, they make great fillers or can be used for posies. Even without any flowers, the leaves themselves are highly ornamental. If you are not familiar with these hardy geraniums, now is the time to think about planting some.
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Where to Plant Cranesbill Geraniums. These little plants are my favorite mixers along the outside of all my borders. Wherever I can put them, I do. Cranesbill geraniums are hardy, easy to grow, and suited to a variety of situations. There are some for the shade garden, others to use as ground cover, and others that are suited to sunny beds and borders.
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How to Maintain Cranesbill Geraniums. Geraniums edge, they weave, they spill over. Most bloom over a very long period of time and will repeat if they are cut back after flowering. Some of the larger geraniums will require mid-season maintenance. To prevent these ones from flopping or splaying open, I cut them back hard after blooming and fertilize. Soon, new fresh leaves appear and the plant remains compact.
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Where to Buy Cranesbill Geraniums. My first geraniums were from Perennial Pleasures Nursery which specializes in heirloom perennials. I also got others from Heronswood before they were sold. Another wonderful source for hardy geraniums is Geraniaceae, a California nursery which also has an online catalog. The selection at Geraniaceae is phenomenal. I am wanting to get some more mourning widow geraniums. Geraniaceae offers 26 different varieties. I don't know how I will be able to choose. I think this will be a paralysis of choice.
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Container Gardening: Pictures of Miss Kim Lilac



As a follow-up to my post on the variety, soil, and care of containers, here are some pictures of my Miss Kim Lilac, one of my favorite containers on the deck. As I previously wrote:


"When growing shrubs and trees in pots for the long term, I've learned to treat them as really large bonsai plants. Each year, I renew their soil by removing some and adding organic amendments and manure. Also, every few years I trim off the outer most roots of the plants on one side to allow more root development without the danger of the plant becoming root bound. With this treatment, my lilac is still growing in its original planting pot."

Butterflies in the Garden: Picture of a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) on an Allium



Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pictures from my Mothers' Day Visit to Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, New Jersey

Reeves-Reed Arboretum is one of my favorite botanical gardens (click on any images for the full picture).

While Chanticleer and Wave Hill are ever-inspiring, Reeves-Reed and Willowwood Arboretum have the benefit of being local.

Being only ten minutes away from Chatham in Summit, New Jersey, I get to visit Reeves-Reed frequently to see what's new.

Further, being in my identical gardening zone (6b), I know it will work in my garden if it works at Reeves-Reed.

Also, being of a more modest scale, they have a lot that is applicable to the home gardener.

From the website:

"The Reeves-Reed Arboretum is a suburban conservancy dedicated to environmental and horticultural education for children and adults...

and to the enjoyment of nature through the professional care and preservation of a historic country estate. Reeves-Reed Arboretum has 5-1/2 acres of formal gardens.

The gardens represent design trends of the early 20th century.

A map of the Arboretum grounds and description of the grounds are available.

Also we have a wildflower guide depicting some of the many flowers that can be found at Reeves-Reed Arboretum."

Related posts: Living and Gardening Around Chatham, New Jersey, A Visit to Chanticleer in Wayne, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2008: Roses, Daffodils, Peonies, Lilacs, Irises, Alliums, and Mountain Bluet in New Jersey (zone 6b)

May and June are probably my favorite garden months. I love how they hint at the abundance to come in late summer, not to mention the old fashioned roses are blooming then. Here are just some of the highlights for May's bloom day (double click on any image for the full picture).

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Frau Dagmar Hastrup, and then Rouletti, are my first roses of the season. Frau Dagmar is wonderful for its heavy scent and continuous bloom.
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Rouletti has a light scent, but it is just as generous with its bloom.
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My last daffodils to open are the Peasant Eye. Sadly, they signal the end of daffodil season. These too are fragrant.
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This tree peony is young, so I only get a few blooms, but they are spectacular. Each bloom is about eight inches across. The tree peonies have been holding their blooms surprisingly well this season despite the rain.
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With huge blooms this wonderfully fragrant lilac, Nadezhda, is a highlight of the lilac season.
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Camassias and irises blooming in the Triangle Garden.
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I love the purple allium aflatunenses. These have self seeded throughout the front garden.
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Mountain bluet spreads and is unassuming, but I love the almost irredescent blue of its flowers and its long bloom period.
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The jack in the pulpits in my garden, I never remember planting. I don't know if I did, or did they just appear?
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gardening with Children: How to Make a Crown and Boutonniere with Fresh Flowers

Last Saturday, two of my children made their First Communion. As a part of the joyous celebration, I made a crown for my daughter and a boutonniere for my son using fresh flowers from my garden. They were easy to make and could also be used for weddings (the perfect touch for a flower girl or ring bearer) and other special events of the summer.

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1. The base of the crown. As a base, I made ring out of a long, flexible branch from a weigelia. I bound the ends together with floral wire and tape. You could also use a young branch from forsythia, spirea, or honeysuckle.
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2. The flowers for the crown. Then, I went out to collect fresh flowers from my garden. I looked for flowers that were not too big and would last well out of water. Also, I took many fragrant flowers. I collected the following: daffodils, honeysuckle, brunnera, muscari, bluebells, dogwood, daphne, forget me nots, and cherry blossoms.
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3. Attaching the flowers to the base. With floral wire, I attached each flower to the weigelia base.
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4. The finished product. When it was done, I spritzed the crown with water and put it into the refrigerator until we were ready to put it on.
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For the boutonniere, I used a brunnera leaf as the backing and wrapped daffodils and brunnera flowers together. I secured the whole thing together with floral tape and put it into the refrigerator to wait. The boutonniere was lovely, but I would not use brunnear foliae again because it wilts very quickly out of water (see picture); an immature hosta leaf would have been better.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Birds in the Garden: Picture of a Tufted Titmouse Nest



April 29, 2008: Recently, I noticed some birds flying in and out of the children's playhouse. Upon closer observation, it appears that a pair of tufted titmouses or titmice have built a nest in the framing of the fort against the wall. Interestingly, the nest is oriented horizontally, not vertically, as I am used to seeing in a tree. My husband took this picture head-on (not top-down) without a flash last weekend, but we haven't been back in recently to avoid disturbing them.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Old Farmer's Almanac Spring Planting Schedule (May)

As I wrote in my prior posts on my April planting schedule and heirloom seed sources and potato planting and asparagus harvesting, I am following the Old Farmer's Almanac Gardening 2008 Calendar this year. As a a relatively new vegetable gardener (most of my gardening experience is as a flower gardener), the Calendar is an indispensable help in knowing when to plant what.

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According to the Calender for my area in New Jersey (zone 6b), May is the time to plant the rest of the vegetables I have not yet planted. Here's a summary of what I've done to date:
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Outside the perimeter of the Children's Garden:
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*Asparagus - planted three years ago, the first harvest was two weeks ago, the second harvest was last week, and the third harvest will be in the coming week; I love perennial vegetables
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*Brocolli Rabe (pictured) - seedlings planted in early April were harvested last week and were delicious
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*Lettuce, Swiss Chard, Carrots, Leeks, Beets, Onions, and Sugar Snap Peas - also planted in early April, but not yet ready to harvest
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*Potatoes (pictured) - seed potatoes planted two weeks ago have already started to come up--I just bought the salt hay to cover them this week
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*Tomatoes, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Pumpkins, and Watermelon - some were planted last week, the rest will be planted this week
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*Corn - to be planted this week Native American-style with a piece of whole fish for each seedling--this is another great project with the kids, though you have to harvest all of the ears the minute they are ready before the critters get to them

Friday, May 09, 2008

What I've Learned About Growing Tulips in New Jersey: Protecting from Squirrels and Deer, Planting in Clay Soil, and Creating Colorful Combinations

One of my favorite spring flowers at this time of year is the tulip. Because of the squirrels, deer, and clay soil in my area of New Jersey, few of my neighbors grow tulips, but it can be done. Here are some lessons that I have learned over the past few years on growing these beautiful flowers in my less than ideal conditions. For me, it has been well worth the effort.

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1. Protecting Tulips from Squirrels and Deer. In the fall, to protect the bulbs from being eaten or dug up by hungry squirrels, I soak them in deer repellent before planting. In the spring, to protect the tulips from being nibbled by the deer (my friend calls them rodents with antlers), I then regularly spray them with deer repellent as soon as the bulbs begin to emerge.
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2. Growing Newer and Heirloom Tulips in Clay Soil. Because tulips naturally like dry, warm summers, there is a big difference between the newer varieties that have been bred mainly for commercial cutting and the heirloom varieties that were bred to actually be grown in people's gardens.
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The newer varieties spoil if I keep them in my moist, clay soil year-round. To over-summer them, I remove the bulbs after the show is over to a less prominent area of the garden so the foliage can continue to make energy for the bulb. Once the leaves have died down naturally, I dig them up and store them in a dry cupboard until it's time to re-plant them in the fall.
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In contrast, the heirloom varieties are much more tolerant of my less-than-ideal clay soil. I find that about three-quarters of them will survive the summers in the ground. In the areas where I grow them, like the Rose Garden (pictured), I simply plant enough new bulbs each fall to compensate for the expected loss. A mix of orange tulips including General de Wet, Orange Favorite, Princess Irene, Dillenberg are planted with Black Parrot as a dark purple accent.
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3. Creating Colorful Combinations of Tulips. Inspired by the Granny Mix offered by Old House Gardens, the last two years I've been mixing up my own tulip combinations to remind me of the old mixtures found in cottage gardens or old time front door gardens. I have ten varieties of tulips chosen for a range of color, height, and form which bloom April and May. My own mix is planted in the front of our house (pictured). It consist of the following tulips: Ballerina, Queen of the Night, Couleur Cardinal, Princess Irene, Kingsblood, Mariette Cum Laude, Maureen, Mrs John T. Scheepers, and Dordogne.
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Under a pink flowering crabapple outside the Children's Garden, I planted Christmas Dream, Big Smile and Menton. I must say that originally, I did not like the apricot color of Menton, but as it matures it is absolutely beautiful, particularly because it picks up tones in the red foliage of the crabapple as the leaves elongate.
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On Lilac Hill, I planted the String of Pearls combination from White Flower Farm along with Lilac Perfection, Monte Carlo, Blue Diamond, and Violet Beauty. The String of Pearls collection contains Mount Tacoma, Maureen, White Triumphator, Spring Green, and Calgary.
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