Archive for the 'flowers and gardens' Category

Tucking the Plants In

succulents

I indulged in lots of succulents, some ivy for the backyard, English thyme and another echinacea (I hope it is orange)

We had no snow this winter. Our temperatures swing from the 70sF to the 40sF. I was sure we were done with worrying about the plants. I’m so ready to start tossing seeds in the big pots and to pot the succulents I bought. I also bought some more thyme – English thyme. The thyme that wintered over is lemon thyme. I thought that this past weekend was going to be a garden day.

covered herbs in pots

all the herbs on the walk are tucked in for the night. I figured the mint was fine since it had wintered over out there.

The past weekend wasn’t too bad weather-wise. It was the weekdays after that had the bad forecast. Winds of up to 60 mph were predicted for Monday, along with driving rain. Tuesday was supposed to have temps in the 50s. Wednesday night had frost warnings – temperatures 30-35F. Excuse me???? We had NO winter and now in mid APRIL we have FROST warnings? So annoying!!!!! Well, I’d already moved the pots down off the porch, so I figured I’d better cover them. The succulents and time and ivy on the porch were probably fine, but as long as I had the plastic out, I covered them as well. Everyone made it through the night with no trouble. I don’t think it got below freezing. I left them all uncovered last night when the temps were in the low 40s, and I think maybe the cactus that had orange flowers may have been unhappy. Time will tell.
Oh rats. Just heard a forecast for Tuesday night: 30-35. NO!!!!!

covered succulents

probably totally unnecessary but I covered the plants on the porch as well

Spring Trees

Cherry Blossom tree

Cherry Blossom tree

At the risk of annoying my dear friend Honour, I’m posting more plants in bloom pictures today. Honour and I are not that different in some respects – we both love and need growing flora. Of course in other respects (shoes and hair, for example) we do differ greatly. 🙂

White Dogwood tree

White Dogwood tree

Today was already a “difficult” day and it’s not even 10:30 am. I woke up tired. I don’t know why – I think I slept well. I don’t remember any bad dreams or tossing and turning. Yet I’m tired. It happens.

American Redbud tree

American Redbud tree

Then I made the mistake of listening to the news on the radio as I got dressed. Made the bigger mistake of looking at headlines as I fed the cats. Saw that I had no response to two emails that I had hoped might get answered. Looked at my work schedule and saw meetings booked solid from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. Ouch.

grape hyacinth

grape hyacinth

But today is a beautiful gorgeous spring day outside! The sky is a lovely shade of blue, trees around the house are blooming, no power landscaping services disturbing the serenity. My husband made a full pot of coffee. *smile* I did what any sensible person would do. I took my camera and went outside. I want to upgrade my phone SO MUCH. But in these worrisome times, that is a foolish expenditure of $$$, well, in my opinion anyway. Who knows what’s going to be happening in the future and a new iPhone, no matter how fantastic the camera, is not essential. (yet)

Andromeda bush and flowering cherry

Starting on the left: Andromeda bush, forsythia, rhododendron (seen above the andromeda bush), American redbud, and a big maple tree all the way in the back

Looking at all these gorgeous trees (none of which fall within my property lines) cheered me up. How can you not smile when looking at such beauty? Then I discovered that my 10:00 am meeting was cancelled. Who knew that just looking at trees could be so rewarding? *grin* The little grape hyacinths are in my garden, as is the andromeda bush. I’ve been waiting for my seed order to arrive – it’s been weeks. I understand seeds are not a priority shipment, but it would be nice to have something to do in the garden. It’s still too early to put in plants. Ahhhh. All this talk of the garden and trees – I feel better already.

japanese maple and american redbud

Japanese maple front and center, redbud and maples behind, rhododendron on the left, and behind that is a big lilac bush that is not yet in bloom.

Life During The Pause

signs of life

The very first signs of life in the garden

Life has gotten incredibly surreal, hasn’t it? I’ve wanted to come here and chat, but I’ve had writer’s block. There is so very much I want to say, but I have rules for myself about what I post. I have a lot of unpublished posts as well, the kind of thing where I was venting about something specific, and writing it out was sufficient venting. I have half-written posts that even I don’t know where I was intending to go. Then there are the zillions of posts I’ve written in my head. It seems odd that there is so much to say, so much happening, yet I can’t get the words out.

tulips and clover

Beautiful tulips from Washington state

I miss writing here. Writing tends to make me focus on things that give me pleasure. Reality is a mixed bag, after all. I took a look around the house – oh em gee all you can DO is look around the HOUSE now, right??? – to see what repairs needed doing that maybe I could do. I’m watching TV with my husband and we are having serious in-depth conversations about synthetic life forms (AI, androids, et al). I went out into the garden this weekend, into the sunshine, and took pictures of my plants, hoping that would spur me on. Yay for my garden because it really helps to keep me centered. The only other thing that can calm me down these days when I start freaking about viruses and politics and “end of the world as we know it” is to listen to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo give his daily press briefings. He’s so calm, articulate, smart, good-looking, reasonable. He calls this stay-at-home situation “The Pause”. I love that term. I live in NJ but I tune in for the NY update every day. If I can’t catch it live I watch the replay later. *smile* Governor Murphy is doing a good job, but he’s no Cuomo. My coworker, who plays for the distaff team, told me that even she has a crush on Gov Cuomo. She explained that we are part of the great Cuomosexual awakening. *grin* I LOVE that term, too. But Gov Cuomo only speaks for an hour or less so my garden is the more reliable tranquilizer. When it finally stops raining. It WILL stop raining, right?

container garden 2020

Herbs that wintered over

I found a picture I took a few weeks ago, when the first signs of flowers were starting to appear. That was so long ago. Or maybe it was last week? Because when we are all working from home, and not going out, well, every day blurs into the next into the one before and none of us seem to know what day it is. (Another reason to love Gov Cuomo – he starts his press conferences saying such things as Happy Tuesday!, and then I KNOW what day it is and can check to see what meetings I have scheduled.)

peony and iris

My yellow peony on the right, some of the iris in the back left, grasses in the upper right, and I believe that is my False Starwort returning there in the middle!

Two weekends ago it was warm and sunny and beautiful and we were all required to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. I spent several hours doing garden cleanup. I didn’t have the money last fall to hire the service that usually does my fall/winter cleanup. That means that there are lots and lots of dead leaves matted among last year’s stalks and fencing. I needed to cut down the grasses and the dead peony stalks and pull up the dead goldenrod stalks. Five yard bags of debris. And that was only the front garden and the rudbeckia garden. I still have the porch garden and along the driveway and along the side of the house to clean. Ugh.

return of the rudbeckia

Some of the rudbeckia laciniata hortensia. It makes me crazy. I planted so many plants last year. There is a huge bare spot where they should be. 😦 I have ordered 8 more

We had such a mild winter this year in central NJ. The only snow we had was in December and it was less than 2 inches and melted by the end of the day. That was it. I don’t think we even had 4 days in a row of sub-freezing temperatures. All of that means that much of my container garden wintered over and has come back green and healthy. Not only herbs, but I believe I have verbena coming back in one of the pots as well. Something that is not an herb is doing quite well. I know that canna lilies, which I absolutely adore, need to be dug up and the bulbs stored in a garage or basement or something. I never do that (by that time of the year I am totally sick of gardening). I indulge myself come spring and buy new ones. I am wondering if any of them will have wintered over and come back. The problem I foresee is that I have NO idea what a canna lily sprout looks like. What if it is coming back and I think it’s a weed and pull it? That rationale could get me to skip weeding my garden until what – end of June maybe? 🙂 That’s quite appealing.

marjoram and cilantro

the marjoram and cilantro a few weeks ago. Both are looking much greener and fuller.

I took the containers off the porch and put them out in the sun and the rain, lining the walk. There are some canna lilies in one of those pot as well. I’d save so much money if some of those came back. As it is, I’m going to save a lot on my herbs. I have healthy rosemary, sage, lemon thyme, cilantro, curly parsley, lemon balm, mint, sorrel, chives, oregano, and marjoram (note the use of the Oxford comma). The marjoram is not in the picture – it’s sitting on the front steps. There is basil in the picture but that is cheating – I bought them at the grocery store. 🙂 I LOVE the smell of basil – it cheers me right up!

a visiting possum

A visitor back in February. I actually think he may have been injured (seemed to maybe be dragging a hind leg?) but he was quite active. Never saw him again. Was quite surprised to see him once

Don’t Forget To Water

IMG_3004

Succulents seem to be hardy

As I’ve mentioned in the last several posts, I have been struggling with the remains of some sort of sinus/bronchial illness since December 22. When I am “under the weather”, as the colloquialism goes, I tend to be less careful about all the personal hygiene routines. Okay, don’t freak – I shower and brush my teeth. *grin* I mean all those little extras in which some of us indulge: moisturizer routines, manicures, pedicures. I also tend to neglect my plants’ personal hygiene as well. I noticed yesterday morning that the plants in the kitchen window looked thirsty. That’s easily remedied. I put them all in the sink and ‘rained’ on them for a while with the sink spray. Today I realized that I’d also neglected the areca palms in the breakfast room. They’d been surviving there in the winter, but today I saw that two of the leaves had turned yellow. That’s not good. 😦 I watered them and made a note to myself (yes, a physical note up on the wall) to water them tomorrow. I hope I haven’t done irrevocable damage to them. I’d really like them to survive until I can move them back to the porch in May. The information I found online claims they can weather a little drought. I hope 2-3 weeks in a house with humidifiers counts as “little”.

IMG_3003

The areca palms. The pink is from the grow light.

Getting Grounded in the Tree

autumn tree

There’s been a lot going on the last few weeks, not the least of it being the “month” of Jewish holidays. Sometimes there seems to be no time to breathe, much less compose a post. At the office today I got up to take a short walk. It is too windy and cool outside so I walked about the hallways. As I headed back to my desk I was captured by the view out the window. I always appreciate that I can gaze out the windows and see trees and mountains and birds. Today is a perfect autumn day – clear blue sky, fall-colored leaves, puffy white clouds. I went and stood by the window and practiced a moment of mindfulness. Looking at the tree, the leaves, the bark, the branches the pods. Just breathing.

Late Summer Garden Glory

closeup white cosmos

Not only is it NOT a weed, but I believe that the thick hairy plant I accused of being a weed is actually a cosmos. That means it had every right to be growing where it was growing (where I dumped the cosmos seed). It seems to be a different variety than the ones that bloomed earlier. I have to say, I REALLY like this variety. *grin* And to think I was so disparaging earlier in the season. I’ll have to remember to be very careful weeding next spring and hope that this one self-seeds.
white cosmos

I’d had 2 hanging plants in the middle of my grasses and rudbeckia. One of them was finished by the end of July (I don’t even remember what they were – maybe orange zinnias? superbells? something orange-y that was done by August). I treated myself to a red begonia to replace it. I love the color!
red begonia

One of the other perennials I have been trying to get established is my pink guara. I “discovered” this plant a few years ago and fell in love with it. The way the flowers appear at the end of a long thin stem make it look like a cat toy. 🙂 I kept buying them and planting them and they would not come back the next year. This is the first year that my guara came back and I’m so pleased. I may pick up a few more to string them together. The recommended planting guide says to put them in a clump. Maybe that would have helped them winter-over as well. Whatever the reason, they came back this year and I am loving them.
pink guara

As for those trying-to-be-cucumbers… Well. We are definitely going to run out of something before they actually become cukes. For starters – how can they be growing when it looks as if the vine has already shriveled and died? There is no way these round balls are going to have time to elongate into cucumbers before the first frost. Ignore the little sign that says ‘lovage’. I was using that to support the vines when they were still green and healthy looking. What am I going to DO with these ‘fruits’? Do you think they are edible? Do you think they will turn all green? Did I grow ROUND cucumbers? Is there such a thing?
cucumbers

It’s now officially fall, but the temperature was over 90 yesterday. That means I have to keep watering everyone. We haven’t had rain in quite awhile. This is about the time I’m done with maintaining my garden but Mother Nature isn’t doing her part to take over automatic maintenance. In the past I was so energetic and ambitious I would get pots of mums and line the walk with them. I’m not doing that this year – WAY more effort involved than I feel like expending. It’s almost time to start pulling out dead plants, tossing them to the compost, dumping the dirt, and stacking the planters on the front porch to wait for next year. But until then – I’m going to enjoy the view.
thick cosmos

Triumph O’er the Treetops

The Big Red Lift

The Big Red Lift – like a big insect. How will it ever FIT?

They came! They sawed! They cutdown! The Organic Tree Care crew came today!!!! Like the commercials I hear for having junk hauled away: I pointed, they cut. The dead branches are gone gone gone! Let the winter winds blow! I fear no hurricanes for the dead branches are not with me. Clear skies above my deck and no easy critter access to my attic! Can you tell I’m just a wee bit excited? I bet now we will have the calmest hurricane season on record, and the least snow and ice during the winter. No branches will fall anywhere in town, thanks to my preventative measures. You’re welcome 🙂

First job avoid the wires

First job – avoid the wires. Success!

When we last checked in with our heroine (that would be me) she was frustrated by not hearing back from her justifiably busy and preoccupied new neighbor and disgusted with the need for a permit to cut down her own tree and she had settled on an end run: remove the tree dead branch by dead branch. The tree man came and gave a revised estimate over the weekend. It turned out to be less than the prior estimate although I’d been expecting more. I’d asked to have more branches cleared than just the ones on the dying tree. Thinking about it I expect it’s much more work to take down an entire bifurcated tree than to just do pruning, and the new quote reflected that. That was the second joy (the first of course being that I needed no permission for this end run). Paul (the tree man) promised to get it done in the coming week.

Coffee break

I always offer coffee/water to contractors. You don’t see the cups because they are drinking the coffee.

On Tuesday I came home and found a voice mail from my new neighbor – Mari Sue (NOT Mary Lou *grin*). She apologized for taking so long to get back, she was in agreement about the tree and we should get together and talk. It was late and I didn’t respond that night. The next day Paul called and said they’d come on Thursday to shear my shrubbery. That reminded me to return Mari Sue’s call. I told her that I was making her life easier – she didn’t need to do anything, decide anything, the tree was mine and I was going to have every dead branch removed the next day. She said that was wonderful, she and her landscaper had looked at the tree and agreed that it should/could come down. I said that come the spring we could revisit the situation, but that for the time being I was taking care of the obvious problems and leaving us some privacy thanks to the branches that were still alive. We ended the call happily agreeing to meet for coffee soon.

Cut back the driveway tree

2nd job- cut back the tree along the driveway. Most of it is done already in this pic.

Thursday the 3 men showed up. First we played musical cars. I’d left my cars in the street but they needed more room than just my driveway. So I moved my cars further down the block and they backed their trucks up to my property. Then they unloaded The Lift. This machine is SO COOL. It’s like a robot. The arborist controlled it with a remote control box he held in his hands. I looked at it at the end of my driveway and couldn’t quite envision what it would do. It looked huge.

Fitting the lift down the driveway

Look at how SMALL it is now with its legs and neck pulled in. It fits!

While all the maneuvering was going on my next-door neighbor Larry came out. He was naturally curious as to what was happening, especially as one of the feet of The Lift was now resting on his property. Larry is a totally laid-back person. We have a fine relationship and always grant each other’s contractors whatever access is needed across property lines. I knew he wouldn’t care if I was trimming his tree. Indeed, he didn’t care and was horrified to see the cantilevered branch which of course had come from his tree. He offered to help pay for the work. I thanked him and said that all I needed from him was what I already had – his permission to let the workmen cross the property line as needed and that he was totally comfortable with me trimming his tree. Legally once a tree or its parts cross a property line, the property owner can remove whatever is on/overhanging the property. I told him that he owed me nothing, he was not legally responsible, and that I never expected him (or Mari Sue) to contribute to this effort. It’s good to have neighbors with whom you get along. Let’s not mention Mari Sue’s predecessors.

Adjusting the Lift legs

Had to include this – look at how he can adjust each leg and adjust the angle of the foot – see his little remote control there on the right

We had 3 areas that needed work and I didn’t see how that machine would get there unless it had a long neck like a giraffe and could stretch all the way to the back property line. I’d asked to have the maple tree along the driveway (Larry’s tree) trimmed back from the house. Several branches were brushing the roof and others were against the side. In addition that tree was the source of the cantilevered branch on my garage. I wanted that and its siblings, which were lurking over the garage, removed. The third area was the impetus for all this work – the dead tree trunk between the 2 garages.

the cantilevered branch

The Infamous Cantilevered Branch

I’ve mentioned before about the power and phone lines being above ground. There is a thick power line stretching from the southern corner of my property across the driveway to the house. I watched the men start lifting the cage up and up and wondered how they were going to miss the wire. The neck of the lift moves from side to side, up and down. It was completely fascinating to watch. I was riveted. (SEE – I TOLD you I already practice some of the 7 habits of mindful people!!) I watched as they moved that neck slowly side to side. They got it to the far side of the wire and began going up. The neck actually brushed against the wire, and a bulging piece of the neck actually held the wire momentarily. But it all moved so slowly and they slid it just a bit more to the side and the wire was free and the cage was going up and then extending forward to do the tree along the driveway.

goodbye cantilevered branch

Handing down the branch! Bye Bye!!!

They began trimming those branches and I went inside. I was nominally working from home. 🙂 Soon I felt this NEED to go see what they were doing. I’m glad I did. There was a slight misunderstanding of what I wanted and I walked out there just in time. The request was to trim back the branches from the house, but had been received as remove the branches over the driveway. I said that I was quite happy with what they’d removed so far – the house was clear – but they could leave the higher branches. Those provide a lot of shade and relief in the summer. I didn’t want them gone, just trimmed back.

clearing the garage roof

Clearing the rest of the garage roof

Next came my cantilevered branch on the garage roof. To do that they had to move the lift further down the driveway. Watching him place the legs one at a time and adjust the placement of the feet was extremely interesting. I couldn’t believe how much smaller the lift now looked down the driveway. It was tucked in between the house, the tree and the garage. It fit and it worked. An amazing machine. The balancing branch was easy-peasy to remove: he grabbed hold of it and handed it down. Had there not been any other tree work needed, that is exactly what I’d have done. I’d have gone up on my step ladder and nudged it to slide further to the ground. Which is probably why it was a good idea to let the professionals handle it. *grin* I jumped up and down and cheered when they removed that branch. I’m not sure if they were amused or thought I was a crazy lady but they smiled back.

time to tackle the dead tree

Time to tackle the dead tree – have at it!

Next he began cutting the overhanging branches. One of the men got to do all the fun stuff – moving the cage, cutting the branches. The other two had to retrieve and drag the branches down the driveway to the truck. There was a lot of ground-cage communication. They also did a lot of checking and verification with me. By this time I’d dropped any pretense that I was working and was out there watching, taking pictures, cheering, and pointing. 🙂 What a GREAT morning! They cleared all of the overhanging branches and even removed some small dead ones that had already fallen and were snagged in the ivy.

going going

going… going….

FINALLY it was time to get to the dead tree. Only half the tree was dead but the other half is not all that healthy. I definitely wanted to be watching during this part because I wanted them to keep whatever could be maintained. That tree provides a great deal of privacy between our deck (especially the hot tub) and the upper floors of Mari Sue’s house. Since I’d been keeping my deck umbrellas closed all season because of fear of falling branches, I’d noticed exactly how little privacy we will have if that tree goes away completely. In the summer the deck umbrellas will provide privacy now that I can open them. In the winter it’s usually dark when we are in the tub so the lack of leaves is not as big a problem.

another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust. These were all BIG branches

It really took him very little time to take down the dead trunk. The lower thicker branches had to come off in several pieces, but that top part came down in one piece. *laughing* In hindsight I realize that it looked a lot like a denuded Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. 🙂

And then it was gone. Gone Gone Gone. It was wonderful. I looked up and saw blue sky, unimpeded by dead spindly branches. The garage was clear of branches. I walked about, checking the property, making sure that everything I wanted gone was gone.

GONE! a cleared garage

Look at that – a CLEARED garage. Any branch you see is alive

I noticed a dead branch hanging down behind my garage, caught on the telephone lines running down the property lines. I really couldn’t tell over whose property the branch was hanging, but I figured none of us needed a big dead branch hanging on the wires. Yes, PSEG and AT&T (or maybe Verizon – who knows these days, right?) are supposed to keep those wires clear but is has been YEARS since I’ve seen them come around checking, much less coming to warn me they’d be doing work back there. That is why we keep a generator and a Hogwart’s Owl standing by on the ready. 🙂

the house is cleared as well

Both house and garage unencumbered yet we still have shade

Sure enough the arborist freed that branch. Then he cut down some dead branches overhanging Larry’s property. *smile* It was the least we could do since he’d been dropping all of the dead branches onto Larry’s back yard. I told them they could drop them on my yard but they said Larry’s was better. His back yard is all ivy in that corner. My yard consists of stepping stones and plants. The men explained that the ivy was a much better cushion for the branches and would decrease any splintering and breakage. They cleaned both yards once all the branches were down.

take it all away

Take it all away!

It’s done. I feel so GOOD! I can stop worrying about dead branches smashing into my deck and/or house and find something else to worry about. *grin* The crew was great. I can definitely recommend Mickiewicz Arbor Experts, LLC in Jackson, NJ. They were on time, they were pleasant, helpful, polite, patient, professional and left both properties clean and clear. Let it blow, let it snow, let it froze!


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