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.)
This happens every year. I cannot WAIT to get into my garden in the spring. Cleaning, pruning, preparing, digging in the dirt – it’s a siren song. Then comes buying the plants, arranging, planting, potting, admiring, dead-heading – the joy of seeing the blooms and produce. Then comes summer and it’s hot, hot, hot and the rain doesn’t fall on the hanging baskets. It either is a drought and all the plants need water daily or it’s constant rain (like this year) and the weeds emerge and conquer. The spring flowers are past their time, the fall flowers are battling the weeds, the summer flowers are fading and being punished by the incessant deluge from the heavens. That’s the time when I say “I’m really done with gardening for the year.” That time is now.
Most of my wonderful 3 ft tall daisies are brown. The spider worts are done. The rain has beat down the rudbeckia and the giant cosmos. Some careless weed-whacker (ahem) took down some of the dahlias. The dill is done, the cilantro is cooked, the tomatoes never took, and the weeds wander at will. 🙂 Couldn’t resist that last sentence. The hanging baskets still show a pretty face to the passersby, but all WE get to see is dying brownness.
I did finally weed-whack the driveway and the back yard. I probably whacked some of my ivy too, by mistake (just like the dahlia), because the day I was whacking, it must have been the most humid day ever without actually raining. I know it was real-feel over 100F. And of course the weeds are flaunting their wretched little heads again. My husband razed the lawn because we are both so tired of it and our young helper abandoned our neighborhood for a better paying job. I have not yet coerced my new teenage next-door neighbor into being responsible for our lawn and walks.
I want to take my shears and clip all of the herbs down, down, down. The willow needs major pruning as it appears to be staking a claim on the driveway. The contractors’ trucks do battle with the willow weekly but that is one determined bush. I need to get someone to help me wrestle the rhododendron down and back a few feet. Ditto the forsythia. I have no idea what is happening in the far corner back by the water spigot and the deck. There is some weed that is about 6 feet tall now. I could reach it through the dining room window if I were not afraid it might turn me into a pod person. I’m hoping it dies in the winter because otherwise we may need a flame-thrower to battle it. That might be awkward as it IS against both the (wood) house and the (wood) deck.
There are still a few blooms of joy in the garden. Nothing can diminish my joy in my tropicanna canna lilies, the remaining rudbeckia laciniata hortensia (best flower ever) and the mandevilla. There are dahlias fighting the brave fight as well, and a few remaining daisies. The hibiscus has been disappointing all year – even the deer were so uninterested in it that they have done less damage than expected. But it has put out a few more blooms this week as well, encouraging me to garden on. I propped up the cosmos (as well as broke off a major stalk) so they are feeling a bit more up. *grin* The goldenrod is well over 4 ft now, which means it should have a wonderful fall bloom. Of course, most of us are allergic to the goldenrod pollen, but what price beauty, right?
I 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.
My 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.
Construction 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. That’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. A 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….
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!)
I 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.
I 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. 🙂 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.
I 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.
This 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.
This 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.