Okay, so maybe not so exciting to some, but to me? I’m thrilled! - I’ve been waiting three years for this sucker (sticker) to bloom. Dug a piece from a client’s yard (yes, with permission) and three year’s later we have our first blooms. This is the 3rd bloom of five that I think we’ll have this year.
Using my trusty internet as a source, I identified it today as a Native Opuntia Humifusa also know as an Opuntia Compressa. Say that three times fast! It’s a native of the North-Eastern Great Plains and grows as far north as Southern Ontario. Huh! I guess, no big deal to be growing in my Zone 6 NJ area.
We thought we’d lost it after the terrible winter we had. After the snow and ice melted, we were left with shriveled dark green, unhappy pieces of something.
Now, doing some research on it, I find that, that is typical. Although, the plants are technically evergreen, the plants become quite deflated and scraggly in appearance during winter. No kiddin! I read on to see “However, the pads green up and plump up quickly in spring.” I left ours alone except for fertilizing and a little TLC this spring and we are so rewarded.
Flowers are pollinated by insects and its seeds are dispersed by small mammals, in particular rabbits, and occasionally by the birds which consume its fruits.
We don’t really care much about all this, but we sure do appreciate the beautiful flowers we are graced with on this glorious June day.
Happy Father’s Day to all my gardening friends!
Okay, I give up. I finally cried UNCLE!!
I just could not wait another minute for the snow to melt off my backyard deck. So, I got out my handy snow shovel and made a path through the ice and snow to the back of the deck and dug out the gas grill. It’s sunny and the snow will hopefully melt some of the icy patches left on the path so I won’t kill myself tonight on the way back and forth to the grill.
I typically use the grill all winter, regardless of the temperature- but because of the snow, the ice, the freezing rain and consistently cold temps, although only a few feet away from the door, the grill was not within my grasp. Well, I finally fixed that!
What’s on the menu of this winter barbecue? - Well, thick, juicy medium-rare steaks, baked potatoes and a nice green salad, accompanied by some good red wine, of course. Umm ummm good! The fire is blazing so I’ll be toasty warm in between my trips back and forth to check on the steak’s progress.
My mouth is watering already. I hope this gives a few of my readers some incentive to do the same. When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade!
So, it’s the 17th of December and here in NJ, it’s a balmy 36 degrees in the early afternoon. A little respite from the below freezing - all day, every day - weather we’ve had for the past week. I don’t know about anyone else, but can we just skip winter and mark the first day of spring, instead?
So, I’m feeling a little chipper today with the temps above freezing. Imagine my great surprise, when what to my wondering eyes did appear - no, not two tiny reindeer (they’re in the garden bed under my kitchen window) - but two tiny snapdragons blooming in one of my windowboxes.
The brrrr cold came late - but snuck up on me just the same - didn’t want to take the plants out of my two windowboxes - since they were still blooming - we had purple petunias still blooming in one at Thanksgiving. So, then the deep freeze came and that was the end - or so I thought.
Today, I noticed two snaps blooming in a windowbox. They were peeking at me through the window. No unfortunately, the picture shown is not the actual one - it’s too cold for them to look so magnificient - but in my mind’s eye they were just as beautiful - braving the cold just for my pleasure.
So, on this sunny winter day - I had a smile and a breath of spring - for a few minutes - until I actually went outside and felt how cold it still is. So, all the more reason to appreciate these glorious plants.
Snapdragons - what are they? - well they’re an annual, easily grown from seed -hardy too. They are one of the earliest flowers we can plant around here in early spring, along with pansies and some stock. They come in all colors of the rainbow - whites, creams, yellows, pinks, mauves, purples, oranges, reds and mixed hues too. Dark green foliage, not very significant - but a perfect accompaniment to their beautiful flower heads. They are delicately scented and can be short, medium or tall. Regardless, they are a fantastic flower to include in any planter or bed you have.
What other virtues of a snapdragon can I extol on?, you might ask. Well, they can self seed and they winter over occasionally. When they do, they’re stalks turn a yellow, green and green up nicely as soon as the temperatures start to rise in the spring. Most importantly, they graced my day today - and I’m thrilled about that.
Tell me about your winter surprise today. I’d love to hear!
Okay, so I’ve been a little remiss in writing my blogs and I have heard about it from my friends and followers. To all of you, I humbly apologize. I can’t possibly keep up with life in the fast lane AND blog at the same time. Seriously, folks!
Anyway, I guess I haven’t blogged because you have to be in a certain frame of mind to blog. An avid gardener and plant lover, I found it hard to write about gardening - when everyday it was an EFFORT to step outside and look at the wilting landscape and dodge the mosquitoes. Did we say, mosquitoes? Well we don’t just have mosquitoes, we have MOSQUITOES. Asians, Tigers, whateva! We have them.
It was dry and we still had them. No water for the poor plants, but we still had them. Now, we’ve finally had a substantial amount of rain - the lawn came back, the summer annuals are still flourishing and we have more mosquitoes than we could ever have imagined. They bite during the day, at dusk, in the evening. They piggyback on your clothes when you come in the door and hide until the next day so they can come out and bite you again. Ugh!
BUT, fall has finally arrived. No bite in the air yet (and I’m not talking about the m-word here) but fall has finally arrived with the long shadows and shortened days and the coolness that signifies this great season. So, I took the opportunity to do the “stroll” and found we lost four arborvitae due to drought and my failure to care for them as I should. Four years in the ground and we lost four of about 15. So, more costly to replace than the effort that I should have exerted to water them and drag the hose all the way over to the end of the property. Now besides the expense, I’ll have to find ones that match height and variety, etc.
But, other than that, due to my efforts, nothing else was lost. AND the welcome rain we did receive early this month gave things an added reprieve, a collective sigh of relief.
So, October is a wonderful month. The smell of fall in the air - chimneas and woodburning stoves the visual glory of pumpkins, mums and fall asters - but also the last hurrah of the summer flowers. Mine have never looked better. If you still have annuals left after this dry, hot summer, treat them with kindness - a little more water - and enjoy them until the frost.
Impatiens, zinnias, moonflowers - everything is still glorious. Savor them because they’ll be gone with the first frost - but treat them right and they’ll grace you with their presence until the last hurrah!
Don’t have any? You’ll want to run out and get some. These glorious fall crocus are bass-ackwards. They send up leaves in the spring and bloom in the fall; the complete opposite of regular crocus. They also are a bulb, just like the spring crocus.
When everything is winding down at the end of the summer and the smell of autumn is in the air - all of a sudden, you’ll see these gorgeous delicate blooms poking their head up between your summer annuals.
Colors? - there are several - I have pink, purple and white - and their bloom time is late September in NJ and they bloom for about three weeks - from start to finish. Nothing is more fanciful than to see these beautiful flowers.
They also remind me of my days as a child. My paternal grandmother was an avid gardener - we had peonies and rhubarb and lily of the valley and so much more - the best that I remember though were the fall crocus. She had a bed that lined the driveway - not much else in this one patch at this time of the year - but the rows of fall crocus made such a stunning display. Every time, I see my own colchicums blooming - I smile and think of her. I hope my own granddaughters do the same of me someday.
So, read up on these great bulbs and make sure you add some to your garden for next year. You’ll forget all about them until, all of a sudden, voila! There they are!
Since we are really in the dog days of August, I thought it might be a good idea to spend a moment on one of the mainstays of the August garden, the Cleome, a native of South America.
I’ve always been wondering if I was pronouncing them correctly - what a surprise - I actually wasn’t! You know - you say “Pow Tay Toe” and I say “Pow Tah Toe”. Well, Cleome is pronounced “Klee-oh-mee”, not “klee-ohm”, as I so often called them. Goll-ee!
Looking for a great backdrop to your garden? Try these easy to grow wonders. They prefer full sun and will grow in any type of soil. They’re heat and drought resistant too.
They’re also known as the Spider Flower because of their long seed pods that develop below the flower, looking spidery - hence the name Spider Flower - DA! When they bloom, which they do all summer until frost - they bloom from the lower end of the stem to the top and are followed on the stem by the long spidery seed pods.
Some say they have a nicely fragrant odor, I say they stink when jostled. A rose by any other name…. They come in white, rose and purple. I’ve seen them planted en masse in a flower bed in all the same color and it was quite a stunning display. I’ve used them this year in a few planters as the center plant and they’ve really held their own, even in the terrible unrelenting heat we’ve had.
These plants grow anywhere from 3’-6’ tall by 1.5’ to 3’ wide with palmate leaves. They have strong taproots and so need no staking since the taproots seem to anchor the plants nicely into the ground. They’re also fairly trouble-free, but can be affected by fungal spots and mildew.
To deadhead or not to deadhead? That is the question. Well, it’s up to you. If you do so, you’ll lose the spidery effect. If you don’t,they won’t branch out as much. I’d suggest deadheading a few stalks at a time, so you always have new blooms. If the plant gets too tall for you, then by all means, cut the tallest stems back.
Wow, certainly feels like it this month. No time for blogging, even! We’ve just finished up ten days at the NJ State Fair in Sussex County, NJ. It’s always a great show for us and a great time too. If you missed it this year, you’ll want to come out next year and see what it’s all about.
Now we have a week off - of course not really a week off - more like a week between shows. There’s unpacking and packing to do, shipping out backordered items and contacting all our customers who’s merchandise shipped during our absence. There’s laundry and cleaning and - oh please - my sorely neglected flowers.
While I was gone, they were watered, but no one talked to them, encouraged them along or showed them any real TLC. So, I’ve had to spend quite a bit of time in the garden just ‘pologizin’ to them for my long absence.
While I was gone, some of the hosta flowers came and pretty much went. Fade to dark… My ligularia bloomed and was sorely in need of water upon my return. I think I’ve nursed it back to health, but it’s not nearly as perky as it should be.
So, just when I’ll get them back on the road to recovery - I’ll be leaving for another week of shows - the Dutchess County Fair. Of course, there will still be people home here, but the flowers are already sighing in the breeze because they overheard me talking about my next trip. Maybe a little rain and a few cooler days will come along to keep them company while I’m gone. Just no rain on our fairgrounds though. We played that game last year… Wish me and my flowers luck!
If you haven’t a hosta in your shade garden, think again! The leaves are more important than the flowers. That’s what it’s all about. Glorious color and texture make a perfect backdrop or focal point in any shade garden.
Dark greens and blues, golds, light greens and chartreuses. Don’t forget the different textures and shapes in the leaves - puckered, strapleaf, cupped shape, heart shaped and more.
Sizes? Well teeny weeny to gigunda - Big Daddy - a blue, puckered sucker clumps to 36” wide by 24” tall. At the other end of the spectrum - we have a “Little Petey Goldflash” in our garden for the past ten years or so - tiny chartreuse leaves - I think the plant is about 9” x 9” tops. Clumps of three - Wowee!
When designing a shade garden, I always suggest a few hosta to add to the bed and suggest planting them along with other perennials in clumps of threes or fives with repetition of one or more of the varieties within the garden, depending on space and budget, of course. By doing this, when a visitor looks at the garden, they see symmetry and balance and a flow to the plantings.
AND it’s not about the quantity of plants or how many types of plants you use, but how the plants chosen contribute to the overall structure of the garden. It is pleasing to the eye? Does it fill the space? Does it look “Mahvelous, Dahling?”
So because I just love hosta and what they can add to the garden, you can bet I’ll have several worked into my design. Folks who say that they don’t like hosta - really haven’t seen the latest and greatest. It ain’t your grandma’s hosta anymore.
We didn’t even talk about color yet - but bold stripes - white centers with dark
green edges (Fire & Ice), or dark green leaves with broad snow-white margins
(Patriot), Gold (Sun Power) and on and on.
Oh, the flowers? Pure white to lavender - large to tiny. Some a bit fragrant too.
July to August blooming. All prefer part shade and a humousy, moisture
So, try a few! AND Hosta la vista, Baby!
OMG - Ever want to feel young again? Well, actually like a small child? Go home and visit Mom. That’s exactly what we’re doing this weekend. Anna’s 85th B’day is next week. So all the fam is gathering. My Baby Bro from CA, my other sister and brother from nearby my Mom in Western PA. Anyway, the gang’s all here.
So, everyone kinda does their own thing for breakfast. Sleep and get up when you’re ready - showers and brekkie at your own pace - so I decided what I was going to have for my first breakfast on the visit.
Well, I get out my English Breakfast tea that I brought with me - because we already visited the fact when I called my Mom to decide on what kind of things we were bringing to the party - that she only had Earl Grey tea and I don’t care for Uncle Earl. So, as I was saying - I make my tea - “Well, you know there’s Earl Grey in there.” Of course I knew that, hence the English Breakfast shopping spree.
And what to have with my tea? Well, you know I’m Jersey-Centric, Proud -whateva - so I brought Jersey peaches, tomatoes, corn and arugula. Think I’ll have a Jersey Peach and a half of buttered roll.
What kind of roll? Well, great choices - Calabrese round, baguettes, English Muffins, Portuguese rolls, soft rolls… I chose the Portuguese Roll. Wrong answer! “You know there’s English Muffins in there. Why don’t you want an English Muffin?” Well, maybe because I wanted a toasted Portuguese roll…..
Then we moved on to the butter - well I like unsalted butter - not oleo or any of the other ersatz spreads - Un - Sal - Ted But - Ter! My mother knows me for at least a few years - so I Can’t Believe that I heard that I should have the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. I wanted the unsalted butter that happened to be in the freezer since my last visit when I brought it.
Mind you, this whole conversation did not take place at the breakfast table where I was seated - but from the swivel rocker (actually I typed in swivel rocket first - maybe that was more appropriate!) where my mother was seated.
So, I settled down to my Jersey Peach, English Breakfast Tea and Portuguese roll with unsalted butter. Not quite as tasty as I thought when I conjured it up. Maybe I should have had the English Muffin with the I Can’t Believe and a nice cup of Uncle Earl….
My brother, Steve, told me that I’ll probably have enough material after this weekend to blog for a month.
We’d love to hear your favorite ”Momster” story. We’ll commiserate right along with you. This one isn’t necessarily my favorite - it’s just my most recent…
For those of you who don’t know the name of the great yellow daisy-like flower with the black center blooming in everyone’s gardens right now, well it’s Rudbeckia daisy, better known as a Black-Eyed Susan. It’s a great July-August bloomer but if you keep cutting the dead flowers, you’ll have flowers into September.
Now my friends and I wonder, how did the name come about? We can only imagine.
I hope it was no freeloadin’, fist-wavin’ husband that decided that his wife, who happened to be named Susan, was spending just a little too much time in the flower garden and so he decided to give her a big shiner. All the flowers that she tended happened to be Rudbeckia Daisies. When her friends found out about the altercation, they called her Black-Eyed Susan. Since they really didn’t know the name of the flower, nor did they care since the gossip surrounding it was so much more juicy, every time they saw the plant they called it Black-Eyed Susan. Obviously. because it reminded them of Susan and her shiner. We hope there was a happy ending to this tale though, and that when she got up, well, we can only imagine how sorry he was…
Okay, we really don’t know but that’s the best we can come up with. If you have a better idea, moi and my readers would love to hear about it. Please tell us.
Before you do that, though, I wanted to spend a little time on this gorgeous, hardy plant. It’s more than folklore, it’s a wonderful perennial. One of the varieties, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ was selected by the Perennial Plant Association to be the 1999 Perennial Plant of the Year. There is some serious competition for that top spot every year!
These plants are long-blooming, clumping flowers that spread by dropping their seed and by underground stolons. The plant is not invasive but does spread. It’s low maintenance. Will take full sun to part-shade. It grows best in well-drained, consistently moist soil, but will also tolerate clay soils and mild droughts. Leave the last flowers’ seed heads on for great winter interest.
These plants are also great in containers and make absolutely great cut flowers to bring inside to become a stand-alone bouquet or to mix with other great cutting flowers, such as cosmos, zinnias and the like.
And so there you have it. Don’t have any of your own plants? Take a ride or walk and enjoy someone else’s AND please tell us your thoughts on how the Black-Eyed Susan got it’s name.
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