RADISHES!!!!!

2 radishes
Radishes!

I have radishes!!!!! I grew them from seed!!!! REAL RADISHES!!!! πŸ™‚ They even tasted good. I am soooooo impatient and that made me do a very dumb thing. The first radishes I tried to grow I had in the same container as the cilantro. I knew the minute I finished seeding that it had been a mistake. Radishes need sun and my experience with cilantro is that it wants very little sun. My radishes had been growing for WEEKS. I figured there MUST be a radish down there somewhere. I pulled one up.

first radish
The First Radish

It was the saddest excuse for a radish you’ve ever seen. Yes, there was something radish-red at the end of the leaves, but it was as skinny as a root. It was maybe a half an inch long and probably not even 1/4 of an inch in diameter. In disappointment and despair I pulled the 5 of them up and tossed them. I could see that the ones growing out there in the sun were doing much better. I think that had I just left those 5 little ones alone for awhile (or killed the cilantro and not the radishes), they’d have grown up. I got another empty container, filled it with soil and seed starter, and planted MORE RADISHES!!
Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt, That’s why I love vegetables, you know what you’re about!

Radish leaves and onions
Look at those radish leaves!!! (the other cups have onions – i know – a mistake to have them there)

An Interesting Sunday Morning

the first gardenia
FINALLY! One of the gardenias has a flower! Smells wonderful!

Today was the day to do my drive-thru covid19 testing. In hindsight, I decided that I had picked an inconvenient time – 10:00 am. That seemed like a great idea on Wednesday night but on Saturday night I realized that 10:00 am is right in the middle of my gardening time. Ugh. I had flowers that needed planting, and seeds to be sown, and some weeds to pull. Mistake on my part. The weather was perfect – cool (highs only in the 70s), NOT humid (oy, yesterday – drip drip drip) and sunny.

willow with pink leaves
My willow was swaying in the gentle breeze. I LOVE the pink leaves, that turn white and then green. My neighbor wanted to pull it out because he thought it was dying – “the leaves are white”

Ah well, you have to make the best of the situation, right? I was up, dressed and had the cats fed by 8:30. That would give me an hour to do some of the ‘lighter’ work before I had to leave at 9:30 to go for the test.

morning front lawn
Morning light

I’d just walked out of the house and was on the front porch when I heard THIS NOISE. LOUD. BAD. It was some kind of motor noise, I thought. It sounded like when you have the car running and you try to start it again. That horrible grinding noise. It may have lasted as long as 3-4 seconds, then a bang! I saw smoke drifting across the street from behind one of the houses. Then I saw all my neighbors coming out of their houses and into the street as we all gestured at each other (no one had a mask on). I asked one of the later arrivals (by about 60 seconds ‘later’) if they had power. None of us had power. Ahah. The transformer blew.

fire dept to the rescue
Fire Dept to the rescue. Transformer is behind the yellow house (with the blue car)

I’ve lived in my house for 36 years now. You may have noticed in my photos that this is an old neighborhood – you can see power lines and phone lines above ground, cutting across property lines. I’m well aware that we are on a power grid that has separate transformers about town. Everyone who was coming out in the street was on that transformer (the houses beginning 2 down from us are on a different transformer). The transformer is in the backyard of the house that is across the street, and one off of the corner. We got the word that the power company had been informed, and they expected it to be repaired by 1:15pm that day. Ouch. Long time.

discussing the situation
Discussing the situation

The noise and the cat’s reaction had woken my husband. I came in to find him done with his shower. I warned him that our (female) neighbor across the street would be coming over to use our gas stove to make coffee. It does have an electric started but guess what? Matches work equally well. My husband said that he might as well get our generator going. We have a wonderful generator, which runs on propane tanks. That means we don’t have to worry about keeping a battery charged or gasoline getting old. Since we use our propane grill all year, we always have propane handy.

front porch in June
The roses are very happy this year, as is the clematis. I should have hung some mandevilla from the railing but I was lazy

We are old pros at this now – we have had to turn on that generator a few times since we bought it in 2012 (BEFORE Superstorm Sandy I might point out). Our neighbor laughed at how many extension cords I brought up but she was impressed how quickly we plugged in the coffee pot, the refrigerator, the fans in the windows, computers and lights in the basement. Yes, if they warn me that we might have a tornado and I should store water, I do that. While we’d been making coffee and setting up the generator, the fire department and the police had arrived. It was a happening!

m washington geraniums and hibiscus
I could not pass up this hibiscus. Ditto the Martha Washington geraniums

All of that basically took up the hour I had before heading over to take my covid19 test. That was a complete non-event, I must say. I drove up, he checked my name and information against his list, he went over the directions, sent out the swab and vial. I swiped around one nostril twice, then held it in that nostril for 15 seconds, then repeated in the other nostril, per the instructions. Then I broke the swab in half (it has a very long handle), put the swabby part into the vial, handed it back and drove off. I’ll hear by email in 2-5 days. So my brother-in-law (the cause of this activity) will hear before us. My sister was the car behind me, and my husband goes tomorrow. I’ll let you know how things turn out. Given that my brother-in-law’s fever was gone completely in under 2 days, we all expect to get the all-clear. After all, there ARE other things besides covid19 that cause a fever.

borage radishes ground cover
I circled the very cramped borage. Too many radishes in the next pot. That ground cover appears to be incredibly hardy – I hope it likes its new home.

I came home and spent 3 hours working in the garden. I planted some more cosmos seeds, planted some ground cover my sister gave me from her yard, planted some peppermint that had been overflowing where I’d had it originally, and moved some borage plants as well, to give some space to the plants remaining in the pot.

hibiscus and dahlias
Another hibiscus that demanded I bring it home with me, plus dahlias, dianthus and some succulents

I’ve been very careful in my weeding. I realized that in the past I’d been pulling up my echinacea plants, I think I pruned out some gooseberry plants, and who knows what else I’ve weeded out that I might have wanted. The problem for me is that the plants I like all look like weeds. Speaking of which, I think it’s the butterfly plant from last year that is spreading like, well, like a weed. That might explain the name. I can’t remember what the flowers look like (did it even flower last year?). It might be the false starwort but although I’ve gone back and looked at last year’s post on the plants NUMEROUS times, I cannot remember which plant is which. πŸ™‚ I’ve left some areas unweeded because I’m not sure if those leaves are weeds or flowers. πŸ™‚ Only time will tell, right?

succulents
I don’t know where I will be able to fit all these succulents come winter. Can you see that 2 of them are flowering? The one on the ground – the flower is all the way to the edge of the picture.
dahlias and zinniaz
I do like zinnias and dahlias. And Martha Washington. You can see my “natural deer repellent” – the peppermint plant in the left pot.

I was, I am, Naive

Spur of the moment berry pie
Spur of the moment berry pie – yes, I cheated on the lattice because I didn’t have much crust available and I was lazy

Silly me. I thought we were actually moving forward. I thought that living here, I was free from the fear of being burned in ovens, free from the fear of being killed for expressing my religious beliefs. I thought that we were finally moving past the racial hatred. We’d elected a black president – didn’t that show that the majority of us were finally not letting skin color determine what people could or couldn’t do? I thought that all of the anthems of the 60s had grown into our psyches, that we wanted peaceful coexistence. Well, I was wrong, wasn’t I? I am in agony watching my country self-destruct, crash and burn. What’s covid19 compared to what we can do on our own? I escape where and when I can. Because human beings need to find hope, need to find life, need to find the positive no matter how dark the sky. So I cook and bake and garden.

snowing cherry blossoms
Snowing Cherry Blossoms in April

Ahhh, my garden. I relieve my stress in my garden. The weather wasn’t being very kind. We had such a mild winter, and an easy April, that I was lulled into believing I could plant seeds and get things in the ground before May 15, the “official” last frost date. Son-of-a-gun if we weren’t having frost warnings on May 13th or whenever it was. Seriously???? I had to cover my tropicals, tarp the plants in pots, tarp whatever I could cover. Even so, the cover blew off one of my mandevillas. It is only just now beginning to recover. I’ve been spraying the roses and clematis with Neem oil, because the roses have black spot and they are interwoven with the clematis. I’ve been spraying the walk and the pots with that disgusting “repel all” to keep the deer and squirrels away. OMG, that stuff is vile. It had better repel those dratted squirrels because it certainly repels ME. Ugh. I was so proud of my radishes and then discovered the dratted squirrels digging in that pot. I don’t know how I’ll know when my radishes are ready for eating. I have lovely green leaves above, but when do they indicate lovely red radishes below??? I need to do more reading.

our local 'gang' of 4
The local Gang of 4 and I exchanging stares

I’ve been cooking and baking. You know how I love the 90-minute French bread recipe? I think I found one I love even more. The 40-minute hamburger roll recipe. I found this just about 2 weeks ago. The first time I made hot dog rolls. SO GOOD!!!! Yesterday I just casually whipped up a batch of hamburger rolls. We ended up having sandwiches for dinner instead of salad. You absolutely MUST try this recipe – fantastically easy and wonderfully delicious!!!

40 minute hamburger rolls
40 minute hamburger rolls – so easy and SO GOOD!!!!

I’ve also made wheat berry salad and cold sesame noodles, a berry pie, and a chocolate chip loaf cake. The loaf cake was a new recipe for me. I needed to make a quick, easy dessert for dinner, plus I needed to make it sugar-free. I’d made one several weeks ago but, as many people noted in the comments, my chips all sank to the bottom of the pan/cake. This new recipe is so rich and moist that the chips do NOT sink. Definitely a keeper/repeater recipe. I need to tinker a little bit more with the sweetness because I use Allulose instead of sugar, and add in a very generous tablespoon of Truvia as well. I thought there were almost too many chips (I used sugar-free chips) but when I said that my sister looked at me as if I was crazy :). One night my husband made an incredible Chinese food meal – home made wontons. So good!

homemade chicken wontons
homemade chicken wontons (not shown – the chicken fried rice and the beef and broccoli)

The garden is starting to bloom, and I did massive weeding this past weekend. Many of my perennials ARE returning and I added more this year as well. I’ll try to focus on the garden, and not share my darker thoughts with you. Working in the garden IS how I deal with stress, so trust me when I say that I’ve been super-vigilant – even dead-heading flowers and digging out the weeds from the cracks in the sidewalk. πŸ™‚ Soon there should even be flowers to share.

cold sesame noodle
cold sesame noodle

40 minute hot dog rolls
40 minute hot dog rolls – look how well they came out even though this was the first time I tried this recipe
The Gang of 4 in action
The Gang of 4 in action

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? πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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

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. πŸ™‚ 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

Caught in the Act

IMG_1674
Painted Lady butterfly

The black swallowtail butterfly has been much more cooperative than the orange and black butterfly. The other day I managed to catch a few photos of her, although she moves so fast! She is much more aware of my presence than the black swallowtail, which allowed me to get close enough to take several decent pictures. This butterfly moved every time I moved. All the photos are just that bit out of focus, but I think she’s a Painted Lady. Now that I’ve gotten this close, I’m wondering if it is this butterfly I’ve been seeing or if I really was seeing Monarchs earlier in the season. Maybe I’ll have another lucky day and will be able to catch her, or other butterflies in the act! I’m happy to see that they are enjoying the zinnias as much as I am!

IMG_1680
Wings folded

I love the tropicana canna lilies. They are simply stupendous. I was listening to a garden show this morning that was explaining how I should dead-head the flowers, but it sounds a bit tricky. Apparently the new flower is growing right next to the old flower and if you cut in the wrong place you lose the new one. Sounds too risky for me to try. She was also giving instructions on how to dig them up to over-winter them. Sigh. I suppose I SHOULD try to do that – the plants are so expensive, and I do want them every year. But by the time it’s digging-up time, I’m really “over” my garden. πŸ™‚
IMG_1682

I have also figured out that what I thought was the false starwort is actually the butterfly weed. And what I thought was the butterfly weed is probably some huge weed weed(you can see it behind the cosmos and zinnias and to the left of the canna lilies – it’s green πŸ™‚ ). I guess the false starwort died. I started reading to see what I’m supposed to do with the huge butterfly weed seed pod. Apparently I should harvest it, which seems to be easy but messy. I think one of the reasons I’ve been so confused is that I tend to buy very tall plants – ones that grow to be 3 feet or taller. Butterfly weed does NOT grow that tall. It’s possible that at the point when I planted everything I knew that and knew what I was doing. πŸ™‚ I must have ordered them because I wanted to support the butterflies. πŸ™‚ That’s actually ironic, because I NEVER see butterflies over in that part of the garden. I guess they don’t like marigolds.
IMG_1683

I KNOW that I bought, planted and HAVE the Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop). I’ve posted pictures of that here. I also know that I planted things where those 2 huge weeds are growing. I’m waiting to see if they flower – it looks as if they might. But they are NOT false starwort by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s the bottom line – they will flower and I’ll decide whether or not they stay, or I’m going to pull them out.

Summer Fruit is Getting Started

Cherry Tomatoes

We have the first fruits of the garden – cherry tomatoes! I ate them after I took the picture – they were YUMMY! And the Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia is getting started. They are over 6 feet high now with lots of little yellow buds getting ready to pop! I found a new spot for a mandevilla this year. The last 2 years it was getting swallowed up by the rudbeckia, so I moved it to the end of that plot. There are cosmos in front of it, and False Starwort to the side. In front of the cosmos are gazania and marigolds. In another week or two the rudbeckia should be in full bloom. I LOVE that plant!!!!

rudbeckia just getting started

This year I’m trying a new approach to keeping my garden from being the 24 hour buffet for deer. In the past I’ve sprinkled hot pepper on the leaves of my plants to deter munchers. This year I have crammed marigolds and mint around all of my flowers and herbs. According to all the literature (that is, the internet *grin*), deer don’t like the smell of mint and marigolds. I think that must be the case because I did NOT plant any on the side behind the peony, and I see that something has been munching the zinnia that is attempting to grow there. Back to the chili pepper for THAT area.

Marigolds, Cosmos and Mandevilla

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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

The Best Flower

goose neck and rudbeckia (1)Many many years ago my friend Ulrike dug up a bunch of flowers from her wonderful wild garden and gave them to me. Two big garbage bags filled with enormous root balls. There were 2 different flowers in there – a yellow, sunflower-like thing and a white curvy thing that she called goose-neck. Both plants flourished in my front garden for many years. I discovered the white thing is indeed “gooseneck” or Lysimachia clethroides. It’s very hardy and is indeed aggressive and has spread along the driveway as well as taking over a good portion of the first bed. (Hey Debbie – I should give you some of these, too!)

rudbeckiaI LOVE the yellow things. A few years ago, however, they began to fade, perhaps because the gooseneck was choking them. I had them in 2 different beds so I still had plenty of them, but I was getting worried. My friend, who lived next door to my mother, had died and her house was on the market. She lived next door to my mother so one day I went over, found an inconspicuous spot, and dug up another 2 root balls. Yes, I know that was “wrong”. You know what was REALLY wrong? The realtor in charge of selling that house leveled that gorgeous garden, tore down the bushes, the flowers, the wild beauty of the back yard. Don’t lecture ME on ‘wrong’. The stolen goods emigrated successfully. I knew Rike would be thrilled that her garden lived on.

But I was growing worried. What WERE these flowers? My dog-walking neighbor loved them as well and always teased/threatened to come over and dig them up for his garden. I began searching online to find a match. It’s hard to search when all you have is “tall, yellow flowers”. I tried sunflowers. I tried tall yellow flowers. I tried 5 ft yellow flowers. Finally I found something that I thought was it in one of the seed catalogs and I ordered the seeds. The seeds DID thrive and they came up alongside my yellow things. BUT…. the leaves were the same, but the flowers were not. This is because I WAS close, but I’d found the single blossom version of Rudbeckia Laciniata instead of the double-blossom. Nice, but really not good enough.

weed and rudbeckiaI continued searching and searching. One day I stumbled across a blog or a post or something somewhere talking about very tall yellow outhouse flowers (that wasn’t the exact wording that they used, however). When I looked at the photo, there were MY flowers!!! There’s probably a joke in there somewhere about my taste is in the outhouse or something. πŸ™‚ They are called Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia. Next I had to find the plants online. For some reason I kept ending up with seeds when I wanted plants.

weedI called our local radio station garden show and explained my problem – I needed outhouse flowers and did not know where to get them. Peggy immediately found a website selling the plants: Heritage Flower Farm. I went online that very day and ordered plants. I’d never ordered plants through the mail before and had no idea how it worked, how the plants traveled, etc. I ended up emailing with the owner, Betty Adelman, who was wonderfully supportive, informative and encouraging. The flowers arrived healthy and as described and all of them grew up last spring.

bare groundThis spring I ordered 6 more Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia (along with many other plants). I planted them in the front with their brethren. I watched them take hold, begin to grow. I cheered them on. The the rains came. And came. And came. People drove arks to and fro. The flora LOVED it and everything grew green and tall and thick. I was thrilled. Until just a few days ago when my sister said to me “I’m confused. You’re always talking about your yellow flowers, but I have the same thing and when I showed it to my neighbor she said it was a weed.” I guess some might call RLH a weed but I took a closer look at what was growing. Imagine my horror when I realized that with all that rain, weeds that looked remarkably LIKE RLH but were, in fact, flowerless weeds had taken over the bed. Although the leaves are similar, the stalk is very different. I yanked them all out, tossing them into the street to be run over by cars and trucks. Take THAT! I carefully uncovered what remained of my RLH but several of the new plants had been choked out.

heritage farms home pageThis is where dealing with someone as wonderful as Betty at Heritage Flower Farm pays off and brightens an otherwise cloudy day. I wrote to Betty asking if I could still get some RLH even though it’s now late in the season, and sent her pictures of the weed. She wrote back that she would send me some plants. I wrote again to ask if she needed me to send my credit card information. And she wrote back saying: “We’ll send you another one this week. We will cut back the leaves because it will help it recover from being dug after the record breaking heat we’ve had. Once they get going they are vigorous and weeds may grow near them but will not choke them out. … you’re not paying for this one.” That is kindness and generosity. I can’t WAIT for them to arrive and – trust me – I will guard them against the evil weed. This proves yet again that some of the best people I have ever met are people that I meet virtually. I’m not the only person who thinks Heritage Flower Farm is great – the National Wildlife Federation has honored them for their Certified Wildlife Habitat. So if you need flowers, or you want gardening tips and information, or you want some Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia for yourself, do yourself a huge favor and contact Betty Adelman and Heritage Flower Farm – Yesterday’s Flowers for Today’s Gardens.