Folks – it’s November 6. In Central NJ. This is NOT the tropics. Yet my tropical flowers – canna lilies and hibiscus – are in bloom. Gorgeous blooms.
I discovered that I have a volunteer tomato plant. There are TWO huge tomatoes on the plant, and 2 smaller ones near the bottom. Either these came from my mulch that I put on the plants in the garden back in May or they came from seeds dropped by birds.
I mentioned previously that the dahlias and cosmos are in glorious bloom, and the Mexican Sunflower is doing its part as well (orange flowers on the left).
The snap dragons figured if everyone else was blooming, they wanted to join the party.
And of course the grape tomatoes needed to prove that they were as capable as everyone else of flowering and fruiting even though we have had several nights down in the 40s.
Yep, I am enjoying it all immensely. But I’m a little afraid that we’re going to pay for this weather in January/February.
I started trying to build a path along my deck last year. I wanted something that was “green” in the sense of allowing water to flow through, but stop weeds from coming up. My first attempt with burlap as the foundation was a failure. The next iteration was a bit better, but not really great. I used screen material and stepping stones. It did slow the weeds tremendously, but there were still weeds and it wasn’t all that comfortable for walking. I kept adding more and more stepping stones. No photos of all those interations because they just didn’t thrill me.
I saw mats made of recycled plastic on Gardener’s Supply. They are semi-permeable and very tidy. They also cost much more than the screening and stepping stones. I bought a set to give them a try. Around the same time a friend of mine told me he’d used old roofing shingles as a path. It so happens I HAVE old roofing shingles from when they blew off during Hurricane Ida last year.
I made a patchwork path of stepping stones, rubber mats and roofing shingles. I decided to see which worked better for me. I made the mistake of asking my husband which he preferred. *grin* I was leaning towards the roofing shingles approach because that was much cheaper than the rubber mats, I liked the look, and they were flat. The stepping stones were the cheapest but they are not that comfortable for walking, leaves and other debris get trapped and I wasn’t loving the look. My husband preferred the rubber mats. Of course. Champagne & caviar taste for that one. 🙂 If you look carefully at the photos you can see that I did still use some of the roofing shingles in the narrow area by the lilac bush.
I waited for the mats to go on sale and for me to have some disposable income. That all came together recently and I rebuilt the path. There are still some stepping stones nearby, and 3 slate panels but the majority of it is now recycled rubber. It really is much more comfortable for walking and there won’t be weeds. I used landscaping fabric staples to anchor the pads as well. The catalog/website show the mats as going down sooooo easily and smoothly. My path area is at a slant, full of roots and uneven in its width. I’m also a bit slow at unpacking things so the mats were curled for quite awhile. 🙂 Curling edges not only are tripping hazards but ruin the smooth look.
I am still not happy with the path as it moves past the lilac bush. There are a LOT of large roots, with not much space between the roots. I have the slate panels there. I really love the slate panels – I have 2 others elsewhere. They’re not really meant for the way I’m using them – on uneven ground. So some of the slates have broken and some have become detached from the backing. I love how they look so I’m trying to figure out a way to level that area a bit without harming the roots. At the moment that area is probably the least safe part of the walk. Even if I put rubber mats there they will be uneven because of the roots.
In any case I’m done with the path for this year. Water gets through, weeds are blocked, no tripping on most of it, and I’ve lost interest. *grin* Now I need to take a look at the rest of the back area and see what needs attention there.
There is a rule that I have learned to follow: Never Blog When You Are Angry. I’ve actually passed through Frustration, Anger, Resignation and I think perhaps I’ve reached Indifference. All in only 3 days! 🙂 I know I don’t quite have the right frame of mind to write about hiking in Sedona. My choices were food or flowers. I decided to share the last flower photos from October.
Some of the flowers simply knock my socks off with their beauty. That pink & white closeup is of one of the Cosmos. Then there is the splendor of a stand of goldenrod.
The bugs seem to agree with me that Butterfly Weed is wonderful, but they prefer eating it to viewing it. I’m told those bugs are something like “leaf stripper” or “spine stripper” or something. I couldn’t bring myself to do a bug search. I started but was creeped out totally by the pictures. 🙂
I had a Fall Surprise! There was something growing in one of my big pots. It had wintered over. No sign of flowers but looking at the leaves, and the pot it was in, I was sure it was a flower. I waited all spring, then all summer, took off for Arizona – still no flower. At one point I’d even cut back some of the stalks since there were no flowers. I came back from vacation and there were FLOWERS! Purple with a yellow center. I think they must be some sort of mum. They are a welcome surprise and oh so pretty!
I hope you enjoy these pictures. Today is rainy and cold. Tomorrow is more rain all day and temperatures dropping into the 30s at night. That means if I’m going to bring in any plants, I need to do it now, in the rain. Sigh. Only the succulents. I’m giving up on all the others. And I’m NOT bringing in the succulent with those long, dark, HURTFUL spikes!!!
For about 2 weeks now, however, my ears have been telling me it is mid- to late September. The cicadas are extremely loud and out there every evening. My nose is smelling that cooler slightly moist air that means fall. The air is heavy and still. At night the temperatures are dropping into the low 70s, and once or twice into the high 60s. That is NOT August weather. The sun feels warm on my skin, not searingly hot.
According to the calendar, it is only mid-August. That means it is summer. I’m sure mid-August used to FEEL like summer. Hazy, hot, humid. Time for our week’s vacation down the shore. By now the water will be warm which means more likelihood of jellyfish. (Except THIS year, in keeping with everything else 2020, the water has sea lice. I would rather have jellyfish.)
It sounds and feels like mid-September. It is only the dratted no-see-ums that remind me it is still summer.
Isn’t that what you say when you cover your ears so you can’t hear what someone is saying to you? La la la la la la la. I do NOT have the energy today to deal with macro issues: return to school? presidential election? senatorial elections? college football? eating out? La la la la la la.
Unfortunately for me, my little micro concerns were also difficult this week. Sigh. So no cat pictures today – still a little bit too sad about GC for that. Which leaves me only the garden and yard for an escape. Oh – and food. There is always food, right?
Let’s do food first. My husband has been cooking. His new obsession is making pot stickers from scratch. I can assure that yes, you CAN get bored with eating pot stickers. The last two times he suggested it I vetoed the idea. That got me homemade pasta with sauce (oh yum yum yum) and a delicious flatbread pizza. I also got a crustless quiche. You can tell from the photo that he LOVES cooking tomatoes. I’m not as fond of cooked tomatoes as he is but at the moment they are still preferred over yet more pot stickers. The night he made the pasta he made a tandori sauce to go on it. Out of this world delicious. Remember Snuffles, the treat loving dog from Quick Draw McGraw? That describes the 4 of us having dinner. My brother-in-law is usually the bread baker, as I’ve told you. His breads are beyond compare. He was busy all day, however, so baking the challah fell to me. It was good, but it convinced me to get myself a bread thermometer. I worried about it being under-baked so I gave it more time than I thought it probably needed. I’d rather have it that way, even though over-baking means leftovers dry out faster.
The local news reported today that July was the hottest month on record for New Jersey. As everyone commented – tell us something we DIDN’T know. When I was a young lass, maybe all the way up to my 30s, NJ summers were my favorite weather. Hazy hot & humid did not faze me. Now that I am older, I have more empathy for those who complain about NJ summers. The humidity wipes me out. I learned in Arizona that temperatures above 100 are probably more heat than I enjoy, but I can go up into the 90s and have no problem if it is dry. I finally understand the phrase “it’s not the heat it’s the humidity”. Yes, it’s the humidity. And the dratted no-see-ums that are eating me alive every time I water the plants. My legs are covered with scratched bites and scabs. My legs look like the legs of a grade schooler (if there were still such a thing as grade school – oh wait – do NOT go there). My wonderful husband heard me moaning every night after watering the plants and bought me mosquito netting pants!!!! They do work! The problem, I think, for me is that I sweat so heavily from the humidity, that it is still attracting them through the pants. The number of bites is greatly reduced but I still got bitten the other night. I think I’ll try spraying the pants with insect repellent and see if that makes any difference. I could try to get up early when there are fewer bugs about but mostly I get up that early to make sandwiches.
I came home from making sandwiches yesterday and went to pull into my driveway. And I stopped. There was a man from the utility company walking out of my driveway and 5 orange cones IN my driveway. I rolled down my window and looked at him, and asked “What are you doing?” He explained that he had cleared it with the man in the house (*grin* I said – my husband, he said – I didn’t want to presume, I said – wise approach these days). The apron of the driveway was damaged when we got the new gas and electric to the house back in February or whenever it was. They are finally getting around to repairing it. He said we couldn’t drive on it for 3 or 4 days. That means no convertible – it is in the garage. Too bad, because the temperatures are only supposed to be in the 80s for the rest of this week. Of course, the humidity is also supposed to be in the 80s. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
Last year I mentioned that I should plant lots and lots of canna lilies because the butterflies seemed to really enjoy them. I have only seen 2 butterflies this year so far. I showed you the monarch butterfly on the butterfly weed. There has also been a black swallowtail I’ve seen periodically. The swallowtail seems to check out everything but the things I planted specifically to make butterflies happy. It seems to really like the echinacea. I saw it today checking out the herbs, tomatoes and superbells, but it flitted away before landing anywhere. Camera-shy I guess.
I planted 2 gardenias this year – one in a hanging pot and one in a pot along the front walk. I believe that the one in the hanging pot was burned out by the hot weather, after managing to produce 2 flowers in the late spring. The one along the walk has produced one full bloom. It does smell heavenly.
Not only has it been humid, we’ve gotten a lot of rain. The fun part is when it rains in the evening so I don’t have to brave the no-see-ums and can skip watering the plants. Apparently it has been even wetter than I realized. This week my neighbor’s lawn has sprouted mushrooms. Every day they have gotten larger and larger. There must be a good story to write there but at the moment I only have the illustrations. 🙂 If they get much larger they are going to cross the line from impressive to creepy.
Then of course there are the canna lilies. The “rescued” cannas have been thriving in the pots along the walk. FINALLY one of the ones I planted has begun to bloom. I get very impatient in the spring. Even knowing things will grow, I don’t want a lot of empty space that needs weeding and looks neglected. I cram way too many plants into one area. I have this gorgeous stupendously tall canna right smack in the middle of the lawn garden. Beautiful. BUT – crammed in that spot are 2 Rose Mallows, perennials that are in the hibiscus family. One of them was doing quite well before the canna began shooting up. The other is nestled under a canna leaf. When I can brave the biting-bug-filled lawn to go there, I rearrange it to be in front of the leaf. But somehow it always resets to under and behind. I hope it is sufficiently rooted to survive.
I like so many flowers, and I’ve now got so many perennials. I want MORE rudbeckia laciniata hortensia, but I’m not sure where I can put them. I will have to pull out the firecrackers or chop down the variegated grass. Or pull out the rudbeckia laciniata (single bloom rudbeckia). That might work, except I also have the goose neck flowers there and I added the swamp milkweed as well. Sigh. Maybe I should put a border garden along the walk? That gets lots of sun.
Whatever it is that snuck into my planters now has flowers. I can’t wait to see what I’m growing. I thought that purple-edged leaf vine was a sweet pea vine – that’s what I was calling it in my head. But it’s not, according to my search. According to my search I have no idea what it is, other than beautiful. I also have no idea what to tell the lad who cuts my grass. I’m tired of moving pots and putting them back. I think I’ll tell him to just ignore the grass under the vines. *laughing* There isn’t really any grass, is there? My lawn is really nothing but weeds. 🙂
I started my one week vacation at 5:36 pm Friday night. *grin* That’s when I posted my last document to the team and signed out of all my applications and shut down my computer. Ahhhhh. We headed over to my sister’s where my brother-in-law had made the PERFECT Shabbat dinner: chicken, broccoli, potatoes, challah and SALT STICKS!!!! Oh my, his bread is absolutely amazingly delicious. As was the entire dinner. I drank too much white wine but I kept toasting “To Vacation!”.
We came home, STILL running the air conditioners. Maybe that doesn’t sound odd to you folk who live in modern houses with central air. I live in a house that is nearly 100 years old. MY air conditioners are all window units. I hate the sensation of being locked into the house. I love open windows, fresh air, fans moving the air. We’ve had the a/c going for 8 days straight. That may be a record.
It was Friday, I was on vacation, I was a little tipsy, and I was not in the mood to watch TV or read. What to do? Second Life. 🙂 I logged in. An “old” friend was inworld – I’d not chatted with her in at least 8 years. I pinged her and we had a lovely, lovely chat. We caught up on life, life under the pandemic, and then had a WONDERFUL time chatting about our cats and cats in general. 🙂 I also chatted with another “old” friend – one with whom I’ve maintained contact over the years. I know that some people do not feel as if this kind of connection is ‘real’. I’m sorry for those folks, because in times like this pandemic, for those of us who believe in social distancing, the ability to be together virtually does wonders for my emotional health. I’m looking at scenes that tell my brain I am out and about and interacting with friends. It really works for me. I only wish I could reconnect with some of my friends who are no longer in SL – Dale, Zha, Chestnut, Honour, Jessica, Oura, Svea, Alem, Fricker Fraker, Winston and all the rest. We had such fun back in the day.
Now here I am, the first morning of vacation. I treated myself by staying in bed an extra 90 minutes. BC was obliging. She did jump onto the bed after the first 60 minutes, but settled in when I began rubbing behind her ear. 🙂 She often prefers love to food. When I finally went downstairs and outside to bring in the newspapers, I discovered that the temperature and humidity were at a reasonable summer level. I opened ALL the windows. Yet another pleasure on this first day of vacation!
I’m very proud of myself. I finally tamed (mostly) the side garden. I had to hunt for a photo to show how bad it was because I have very carefully NOT been taking pictures of that disaster. 🙂 All I have is a cropped piece of a photo from April. Trust me – it was a lot worse by the time June came around. About a week ago I couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore and began tying back the forsythia and yanking weeds. There were flowers in there once, I know. The problem is that the weeds look exactly like the flowers I plant. I never know if what I’m looking at is weed or flower. And of course there was the incident of the weed that was pretending to be rhubarb.
I took a few hours one morning and began the cleanup, so I could transfer some flowers to the side (mostly peppermint and my borage). That involved cutting back a good part of the rhododendron, and hacking out some very deep-seated weeds. The white azaleas need to be hacked back as well, but I couldn’t do it all in one day. Once the azaleas are cut back we might be able to see the hydrangea that is there. I need to find either a good ladder or a brave soul so the top of the rhododendron can be cut back. I don’t really need it reaching the roof, and that’s where it seems to be heading.
There are some plants that are well behaved and still contained, playing nicely with each other. The lilies look great next to the gaillardia. I’m hoping the mandevilla that is just sneaking in at the side of the gaillardia (you can see 2 partial leaves) will make it this year. Either I bought an unhealthy plant or I’ve been over-watering it (my guess) or it got sick, but its leaves keep turning yellow. 😦 There are flowers and new shoots on it, so I’ve decided to leave it alone for a bit and see how it does. Benign negligence. Those 2 are in the front garden. The shot below is part of the bed between the street and the sidewalk. It’s almost rudbeckia time!! I finally looked up the yellow flowered brown leaved perennial: lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’. What the description doesn’t say is that it is nearly indestructible!
The best part of the side garden is that one of my canna lilies from last summer wintered over, and is coming up! This is incredibly exciting for 2 reasons. First, just the fact that something that wonderful wintered over thrills me. 🙂 Second, they cost SO MUCH per plant. This one is saving me at least $25. 🙂 That is ALWAYS appreciated.
It’s my Boltonia Asteroides – False Starwort! Apparently it blooms in August and September and can grow to 4-5 feet tall. YES!!! The article in Backyard Gardener.com goes on to say that “The Boltonias, because of their great height, are highly desirable in large perennial borders because the plants literally bear thousands of star-like flowers.” I’m so relieved. I KNEW I’d planted something there deliberately. I must have switched my markers when I was planting. Either that or I have been misremembering which plant grew tall. 🙂 I do like tall flowers.
On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that I DO have a weed that has been trying to pass itself off as a cosmos. It is growing where I planted the cosmos. I thought it was a wonderfully healthy cosmos. Then I realized that it was too hairy and too thick to be a cosmos. I’ve seen this imposter before – it’s a weed. 🙂 It doesn’t flower. On the other hand, I rather like its hairy leaves. It gets to stay even though it has no flowers. But NEXT year I’ll pull it if I recognize it in time.
The grape tomatoes are coming in! I lost the first crop to some hungry predator a few weeks ago when I did not spray stinky repel-all quickly and abundantly. I was determined that *I* would get to eat THIS batch. And I did. And they were yummy. 🙂 I didn’t share at all.
I had a new butterfly today as well – the Common Buckeye. It was much less skittish than the Painted Lady the other day. I could step nearer while it was on the flowers and it didn’t dart away. The black swallowtail was back later in the afternoon as well. We’re all enjoying the not weeds. 🙂
The mandevillas are LOVING this summer. Either it’s the weather or I bought superior plants this year. They have both reached the top of the 8 foot poles and are still growing. Not only are the vines and leaves growing, but both plants have been putting out an abundance of flowers. I love it! I think maybe next year I will find more room and plant more of them – maybe build a wall of mandevillas somewhere.
The little canna lilies I planted way back in April in the pots have been very disappointing. I am FINALLY seeing one of them put up a flower shoot, but the others have only leaves, no flowers. The hibiscus has also disappointed. 😦 I’ve been putting hibiscus into the front pots for several years now, and I’d say this is the worst crop ever. I can’t even blame the deer this time – I’m not seeing any evidence that they’ve been chomping. I guess they are disappointed, too.
This green plant highlighted against the brown canna leaves is (supposedly) butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It’s very tall, but I don’t see a single hint of a flower anywhere. I’m pretty sure it IS what I planted, since I have 2 of them, exactly where I think I planted the butterfly weed. I can’t imagine this plant being at all appealing to a butterfly. I’d almost think that what I thought was the Bolton’s Aster False Starwort was the butterfly weed except that does look like pictures of the aster. If the weather ever cools down sufficiently for me to get out there and weed, maybe I’ll be able to figure out what that plant is. For now I’m calling it butterfly weed. So there.
I do love canna lilies, mandevilla, hibiscus, and gladiolas. They are so bright and cheerful. I’m disappointed in the colors I picked for the dahlias this year. They seem to be very dark, and they are getting lost against the bushes. Most of them have not yet flowered so perhaps I planted some light ones as well. *smile* I really don’t remember what I planted. I just go crazy buying plants and shoving them in the ground and hope that it will look good later when they bloom.
It’s raining (again). The news headlines are abysmal (again). I need to do laundry (again). When life gets annoying, the annoyed retreat to their gardens. *grin* Or at least that is where I go. My garden is my happy place. One of my two happy places, the other being the shore (what you might call the beach, but where I live we go down the shore). Since I can’t go out and dig in the dirt directly today, I’ll retreat to my photos.
I’m trying 3 new things this year in the battle against the deer and groundhogs. First, I bought 3 cloches to put over my containers. I have many more pots than cloches but I’m using them on the lettuce (which has already been attacked once by deer before I had the cloche) and the hibiscus. I believe the hibiscus will get too big fairly soon for the cloche, but while I can still tuck it in, I’m using a cloche there.
My other 2 new defenses are marigolds and mint. I’ve always used hot pepper on my plants to deter animals. They don’t like the burning and we don’t mind. 🙂 I don’t want to use chemicals on our herbs and lettuce. I do wash the plants before using but I’d prefer to avoid the poisons. This year I bought an entire flat of marigolds and have placed them in every pot with herbs and lettuce. We’ll see if they help. I’m told deer hate the smell. I don’t think they’ll stop the groundhogs, however. I’ve also bought a lot of mint and I’m adding that to the flowers. I’m toying with the idea of taking my long rectangular planters and filling them with mint and placing them in a row next to the planters. Again the popular reasoning is that deer don’t like the smell of mint. We’ll see. 🙂
I couldn’t remember when the irises bloom. While I was doing some cleanup and planting a few weeks ago I began to fear that I’d either missed them or I had none this year. I’m delighted to see that both fears were misplaced and my irises are back. As is the peony. I really thought I planted an orange peony way back when. I don’t know if that is wishful memory or if I really did and it was a hybrid that has naturalized back to yellow (see below). It’s beautiful no matter what. That corner still needs a little more work. I’ll be planting either cosmos or zinnia seeds (or both) there this weekend.
I plant guara (the little pink flowers in front of the evergreen bushes) every year. They are supposed to be perennials. They almost never come back for me. I am also completely inept at growing echinacea. Everyone tells me that coneflowers are soooooo easy to grow. Yet either they die on me or I’ve been ‘weeding’ them out by mistake. I had THREE plants going last year and I can only find the remains of one this year.
I use a lot of container pots because the sun is in the front of my house. So are the deer. 🙂 I only have so much yard and the pots give me a lot of flexibility. The ones closest to the house are filled with herbs and lettuce, with the flowers further out for public viewing. I got smart and broke apart one of my huge succulent plantings. Although I loved the pot, it is WAY too heavy to bring into the house during winter. I took the succulents that were still alive and moved them to smaller pots, plus I bought some new plants for a third pot. The big red heavy planter now has flowers.
The pots with the green shoots have canna lilies. One pot did fine but the other one only scored 1 out of 3. I’ll need to find something for that. You can see that I’ve allowed many of the herbs to go to flower. I think that is a “no-no” but I don’t really care. In most respects I am very relaxed about my garden – it works or it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, I toss it and try something else. In the plot between the sidewalk and the street I had 4 False Starwort plants. Only 2 came up. So I dug up what was left of the other 2 and planted a mandevilla. 🙂 I have high hopes for both the lupine (perennial) and the gazania (annual).
The rhododendron thrills me every year (top picture). I need to find someone who could get up on a ladder and trim the top a bit. I’m delighted with how the plant blocks my living room windows (but lets in air and light) but I don’t think I need it growing up to the 2nd floor. 🙂 I also need to cut it back from a width perspective. But oh my, isn’t it gorgeous? We planted that the first year we were in the house. My sister and I put it in, along with 2 white azaleas. The azaleas are still there, but they struggle for space against the rhododendron.
We also planted a clematis to wind up the porch support that very first year as well (my sister was my guide and teacher when I first moved in to the house). Over the many years that original clematis migrated to the side of the porch (after the sewer line was dug up and all the plants had to be moved and replanted). I’ve added a few more plants of different varieties to try to regain what used to be a stupendous abundance of purple flowers shading the entire corner of the porch. Slowly but surely we are getting there.