Posts Tagged 'flowers'

Garden Retreat

2019 rhododendronfront porchIt’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.

cloche closeupMy 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. 🙂

IrisesI 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. guaraThat 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.

front walk 2I 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. false starwortIn 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.

clematis and aliumWe 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.

The rain has stopped. Maybe we’ll even get sun!
plants in pots
succulents and tarragon
peony

Forsythia

Because everyone can use some bright yellow flowers with a bright blue sky with puffy white clouds. And dirt and rhododendron buds and andromeda bush flowers and a garden mermaid (that copper piece rotates and sprays water). This is especially for you, Honour, trying to give you some long-distance spring until your own arrives.

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Seeing is Believing

front gardenwith curly grass
Yesterday I walked about in my bare feet, toes digging into the still-wet earth. The last week has been wonderful for my psyche – the plants are coming back!!!! I walk out each day and simply STARE at the green leaves and the yellow and purple crocuses. I have things coming up where I know I planted something new last year. what is this?Unfortunately, the little sign is gone so I’m not sure WHAT it might be. I have other long-loved perennials pushing through as well. I know what they are by where they are, because I don’t always recognize the new growth. Last year I planted the curly grass (you can see it in the top picture) and it made it through the winter. I’m a little sorry I put it where I did, because there is typically a large planter in front of that spot so most people won’t see it unless they are looking at it directly.

lemon thyme wintered overIt’s also exciting to see how many of my herbs wintered over. In one of the pots I have either lemon balm coming back, or sorrel. Or maybe it’s a weed. *grin* I’m waiting to see. It also appears that both the bay and the rosemary might have made it through the winter as well. I usually lose both of those and have to buy new ones, but they are both still fragrant and supple, even if I’m not seeing new green yet. I can always hope. 🙂 The photos show the lemon thyme, sage and chives that most definitely wintered over.

The crocuses pushed through and the daffodils are all showing buds. I had more poppies but I do not have much luck with them. I’ve planted them several times yet they don’t seem to thrive. There’s only one showing at the moment. I noticed the Monkshood is coming up along the driveway. I try not to plant poisonous plants, but I ordered these last year anyway.yellow crocuses It was such a mild winter that I’m wondering if my canna lilies might come back. They never have in the past, so I’m not really expecting them this year either, but there does seem to be something happening in that general region.

Two weeks ago I needed more reassurance that spring would really get here. As I mentioned in the last post, I’d bought some bulbs and tubers. I also placed an order with my favorite online nursery, Heritage Flower Farm. I’ve mentioned before that I ADORE Rudbeckia laciniata var. hortensia, or as they are in the vernacular, the outhouse plant. *grin* Insult them if you wish, but they are gorgeous and a group of them tall and proud in the summer sunshine is a sight to behold.

sage wintered overWhen I’m ordering plants I try now to stick to perennials. I’m trying to save both dollars and my energy. If it’s going in the ground, I want a perennial. I’ll put the annuals in the big pots. I always want to find flowers for the pollinators – trying to grow native plants. I have very little area that is full sun, so I need plants that will also tolerate shade. And I like tall, bushy, wild-looking plants. Some people do color-themes, but I like a riot of color. Every time I say to myself that yellow is my favorite flower color, I realize that I love orange too, and there’s a lot to be said for red, and you need white to bring out the contrast, and purple picks up the colors in my awnings, and blue is spectacular. You can see why I have LOTS of colors. They are all the best. 🙂

here come the poppiesThe rest of my current order from Heritage includes Agastache foeniculum Anise hyssop, Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly weed, and Boltonia asteroides False starwort, Bolton’s aster. The Butterfly weed is to encourage the monarch butterflies that still exist in our area, and it grows 2-3 feet tall. The hyssop blooms later in summer and is blue, when a lot of my late summer is orange and yellow. It grows 3-5 feet and does not require full sun AND the deer don’t like it. Given how often I’ve come home and found a handful of deer grazing on my neighbor’s lawn, I try to find things they DON’T like Chives wintered over(and hide the things they do like behind those). The Bolton’s Aster is new for me. I was intrigued by the description and height (6′): “cloud of profuse, spectacular small white daisies cover this 6 foot tall Midwestern native. Exceptional because it flowers in fall”. I’m not sure yet where to plant this. I think I may need to dig up some more of my lawn. 🙂

Soon. Soon. Soon. Digging in the dirt, removing the debris and weeds, preparing the beds. Soon.

Here They Come!

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IMG_0274 (1)It’s happening!!! It’s really happening! Spring is on its way here! I have 3 bags of bulbs sitting in the front hall. Alert to my sister: 15 of the gladiolas are for YOU! Maybe if you’re REALLY nice I’ll let you have a few of the 9 canna lilies also. But I really love my cannas. I’m NOT sharing the dahlias – get your own. *grin*

Just 2 weeks ago there was snow on the ground and the little green shoots were being brave and pushing through. Now there is gorgeous sunshine and the snow is gone and everyone has room to stretch and grow.

All together now: PHOTOSYNTHESIZE!!!

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Reveling in Green

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IMG_8986I did love my time in Tempe. I’m glad that I now have an excuse to go out west to the desert regularly. (Did I mention in any of my posts that despite my belief that the Jersey shore is heaven on earth, I think that the Negev desert is the most beautiful place I have ever seen?)

It was soothing to be coming into EWR and see all the GREEN spread out below me. It felt welcoming.

IMG_8978My husband had kept all the plants alive on the porch (they are sheltered from rain for the most part) and we’d had several rain storms while I was away. When we pulled up to the house, there were my favorite plants in full bloom – rudbeckia laciniata hortensia.

The canna lilies are also blooming fully, as well as the mandevilla.

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Stalled

IMG_8695Construction has come to a halt while we wait for the township to come and inspect the insulation. I have been extremely surprised at how quickly we have had the past inspections. It seemed Don had but to call and an appointment was scheduled within the week. Not this time. This is more what I had expected, given some of my other dealings with government when trying to sell our mother’s house. We are stalled for over a week, waiting to get the next inspection done. I think this is the last inspection for quite a bit. I don’t think the next few rounds of activity are going to require stage-by-stage approvals. So no renovation news until next week sometime, when we pass inspection (we hope) and start on the walls.

In the meantime I’ll share garden pictures. I’ve been working in my sun room in the front of the house. The house faces south, which means that sun room can get quite warm. IMG_8697That’s a good thing in the winter but can be a bit much in the summer, hence the awnings. A friend of mine said “why AWNINGS??? They are so DARK!!!!” Well, yes, I replied, but come and join me when the temps are in the 90s. The awnings are a real help then. There are 8 windows in that sun room. I keep the blinds shut in the early morning, until the sun rises above the awnings and there is no direct light into the room. My co-workers have been commenting on my beach room, because that is, of course, what I did with my sun room. It is a very happy place for me, even if the chair/desk situation is not very good for my back. I’m in the office today and I’m wearing my sweatshirt and drinking hot coffee because I’m COLD in the air conditioning. But the chair is soooo comfortable and I love my 2 ft monitor. Pros and cons everywhere.

Spring flowers (peonies and roses) are done but many of the summer flowers are blooming. I love them, but I confess that I get bored around mid-July with having to water them so much. I have a soaker hose, and I even have a 4-way spigot I could put on the outdoor faucet. I just haven’t gotten to it. IMG_8710A common refrain: “not gotten to that yet”. I know Honour knows this song too. I love canna lilies as you can see in the photos – I have them in 3 places. It’s almost time for the rudbeckia to bloom as well. I picked some of my “crops” to snack on today in the office: yellow cherry tomatoes, which are wonderfully sweet, and Mexican sour gherkins. The gherkins are fun but they are very sour. 🙂 I’m trying to think of a good way to use them to take advantage of the taste. I have another tomato plant as well as the cherry tomatoes, but that second plant has produced a single tomato. One. And my hot pepper plants have done nothing. I bought all of those at the ag fair back in the spring. I’m a bit disappointed with most of my purchases there. Only the gherkins and the cherry tomatoes seem to have thrived.

I need to trim the front hedge again. I took it down quite a bit in the spring, but it needs some attention. I need to tame the forsythia and the rhododendron on the side of the house. I cropped the picture to avoid the overgrown azaleas and the huge taller-than-my-dining-room-window weed that is growing by the outdoor faucet. That side of the house is definitely in need of major pruning. The lilac bush is blocking my way to that faucet, and so are the spider webs that spring up as soon as I clear them away. This past weekend was actually perfect pruning weather but I had other plans. I need to hire someone. Of course, I now need to hire someone to cut the grass as well, because my young high-school grass-cutter found himself a permanent job. It may be time for me to stop supporting the local youths and simply hire a lawn care service. But only if they’ll do it without chemicals. Or I could just let it all grow and grow….
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Mexican Sour Gherkins

IMG_8623There is a lot of hammering and drilling and other construction noises emanating from the basement today. It’s sunny and warm and dry outside, which means it’s a good day to check out the garden.

I am growing Mexican Sour Gherkins!!!! They were a spur-of-the-moment purchase several weeks ago in May. It was FINALLY a warm, sunny, weekend day and I fled the house to soak up some sun and fresh air. Rutgers University was having its big Rutgers day celebration which I believe started many years when the Rutgers Ag school would have Ag day, and the students would sell their plants – flowers, herbs and vegetables. I have NEVER made it to Ag day, despite many of my friends singing its praise. I headed over there and picked up a few items, including my strawberry plant (which got its very own post) and something I’d never heard of before: Mexican sour gherkins. IMG_8620 I asked if I could grow it UP a trellis instead of in the ground with runners. The answer was as long as it’s supported, it should be fine.

The plant has been putting out skinny light green runners for weeks, and little yellow flowers have been appearing everywhere. Last week I noticed that some flowers had become fruit!! I’m hoping I’ll know when they can be harvested because so far the most detailed description that I have for size is “smaller than a grape”. That’s very small.

If you are going to follow one of these links, I suggest the one above to “Modern Farmer”. I found Mexican sour gherkins in Wikipedia, but they have a horrible name there: Melothria Scabra. All I can think of is scabrous which is a big yuck. *shudder* The description is a mite alarming as well. It says it can grow to 10 feet. Um, I have this in a pot. IMG_8621 There is no way I can support 10 ft of plant. On the other hand – it’s a very skinny vine. Maybe I can just keep looping it.

It’s very exciting to see these tiny gherkins growing. They are colorful and I’m getting a good crop. Stay tuned for more adventures of the ignorant farmer. 🙂


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