Angelica Gigas – I went to elementary school with her, right? No that’s not it. Hmm – camp maybe? No, no, still not right. Ah!!!! A surprise gift from my friend Betty at Heritage Flower Farm!!!!
Last year I’d ordered several perennials. I ordered my plants in March as I usually do. In 2020 I placed my order at the start of the first ‘lock down’ for Covid19. I don’t think that impacted what I ordered. I’ve been planting native perennials that attract pollinators and butterflies, with a few other fun items tossed in. The plants ship as bare-root plants. That means Betty doesn’t send them until the end of April at the earliest and I need to get them in the ground as soon as I can. I use May 15 as my “frost” date. I only need to keep those plants going for a few days.
I’d ordered a few new things – a bleeding heart vine and swamp milkweed. Imagine my delight to find tucked in with my order a gift from Betty – 2 Angelica Gigas plants! Her note said that the plants were looking so spectacular that she just had to share. 🙂 I’d never heard of these plants so began my research on the HFF site and then to Wikipedia and other garden sites. I confess that I still don’t quite understand “biennials”, but AG is a biennial. I planted them in the front, in a very sunny spot, at the end of my row of Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia. 🙂 They didn’t do much to impress me other than stay green and survive.
This year, however, was obviously their biennial year and their year to shine. I say “their” but I believe only one of the 2 survived. It’s a bit crowded in that corner so I’m not quite sure if there is another AG in there. First there was a whole crop of big green leaves. I had to keep tying them back to let sun shine on the other plants and seeds I had going there.
Then the buds started. The flower buds are so different than any other buds that I’ve seen. I’d look at them trying to figure out where/how there was going to be a flower. It looked like a leaf was sprouting from the bud and I was extremely confused (not an unusual condition for me with my garden). It was fascinating to watch them open. The plant is still going strong. It started putting out buds in July, and is still blooming here in late August. I’m not sure if it will flower again next year, or if I have to wait 2 years, but I know I’m going to be happy to see it when it blooms again!
I am still lacking many butterfly sightings. I saw the monarch butterfly one more time a week or two ago. Last night I saw the blue swallowtail as I watered the plants. Other than that, mostly moths. 😦 All my butterfly-friendly plants, and so few butterflies. Yesterday I was gazing out the front door and saw movement in the hyssop. It was a goldfinch. Can you see it there, all the way on the right? Not a butterfly, not a hummingbird, but still a joy to behold. 🙂
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
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.
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!
I have mentioned that I did not think I had ever seen a hummingbird until I saw one in June in Phoenix. My next-door-neighbor had a humming bird feeder and she saw them. My husband said that he had seen one in our yard once also (years ago). Other folks in town have said that they have hummingbirds. I have now seen one with my OWN EYES in MY garden!!!! I am SO EXCITED!!!!!!
I was chatting with a neighbor. He is always threatening to steal my Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia (my big gorgeous yellow flowers). One year I gave him seeds from the flowers. I believe one year I even dug up a plant and gave it to him. He has not had any luck growing them. This year I gave him the botanical name AND the name of the place from where I get a few new plants each year (Heritage Flower Farm in Wisconsin). As we were chatting – that’s when I saw MY hummingbird! It was wonderful. It checked out the big canna lilies and flew away. My neighbor said that is where he sees them as well – feeding on his cannas. You KNOW next year I’m going to plant a FIELD of canna lilies!!!!
I never did anything about harvesting the seeds from the scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). I’m not sure the pod is even still there. I don’t think I have them in a very good spot. I may get some more for next year and put them elsewhere – maybe in front of the porch. The false starwort (Bolton’s Aster) is doing fantastic! It is indeed putting forth dozens of little white flowers. I don’t know if that’s a moth or a butterfly enjoying them. It flitted too much for me to get a sufficiently clear photo so that I could search on it. The black swallowtail was back as well. I think it might be a female. I have such a clear picture of it now but I can’t tell if the difference between the male and female on the web site is because they happen to have slightly different markings by the tail end, or if those different markings are how you tell male from female. I think this one looks more like the picture of the female black swallowtail
The big bushy weed thing that was growing behind the zinnias and next to the cosmos – it’s not a weed!!!! Look – it has little flower buds on it! I can’t wait to see what comes up. I KNOW I have pulled that plant out in the past thinking it a weed. There is something growing out from under the yellow peony that I’m sure is a weed. But it, too, seems to have flowers so it gets to stay. The only flowering thing I pull is my goldenrod. The goldenrod would take over the entire yard if I let it. Its runners are extremely aggressive. 🙂 Even pulling out easily a dozen runners this spring, I will still have a nice crop.
Among my many “let’s just try it” this year was an attempt to grow cucumbers. I love cucumbers. I gave my niece my Mexican cucumber plant for last year, and thought maybe I’d see if I could get real cukes this year. As you can see from the picture, it does not appear that I succeeded. I probably did not give it enough light, and maybe it needed friends to pollinate properly. It does seem as if it’s TRYING to make a cucumber. We’ll give it more time and see what develops. Maybe I should tell it that it is a WEED and it would be more productive?
This morning was so gloriously bright and sunny that I wanted to take a few flower photos before heading in to the office. We are due for some heavy rain tomorrow and that often leaves the plants looking somewhat abused. Imagine my dismay when I saw that something had dug up my gazania and munched the tops off of them. Injury on injury – it wasn’t content with merely eating the tops, it dug up the plants!!!
Working in the garden was NOT on my morning to-do list but I got the trowel and dug new holes and patted the plants back in. Not really a first-class job but I needed to get going to the office. I looked at that and realized that they’d never survive the 90+ degree heat due for today, so I went and got the hose and watered them. As long as I was watering them, I got the front garden and the porch baskets as well.
I don’t think the gazania will make it but maybe I’ll get lucky. I’d be more upset (and I was dismayed, don’t get me wrong) had I not treated myself to some more plants yesterday. I’ve spent the last 2 weekends doing massive weeding battles. One of the good/bad parts of weeding is discovering all the areas where you thought you had flowers but now have available space. I seem to spend a great deal of my time at the big box stores for house supplies. Yesterday was another visit so I just happened to stroll into the garden area to see what was still there. I picked up 3 perennial plants. If the gazania fail, I’ll put some of those plants in that spot.
So much for marigolds repelling deer. I think the midnight muncher also attacked my dahlias. Back to dusting everyone with hot chili pepper every night. Sigh. It works, but somehow *I* managed to inhale it every time. ACHOO!!!!
On a happy note – take a look at the glorious gladiolas! Aren’t they beautiful??? And the mandevilla is climbing to the sky! I bought 8 ft poles this year for them, and I can see that’s not tall enough. 🙂 Maybe next year I should treat myself to some kind of arch in the front garden and grow mandevilla up both sides of it. If those poles are 8 ft, then the rudbeckia is at least 7 ft tall (assuming I drove at least 6 inches of the poles into the ground). I LOVE that flower! (And please ignore the evergreens in the photo below – I KNOW they are in desperate need of trimming.)
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!!!!
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.