Seedlings and barn

We are still in a temporary apartment and the clock is ticking for spring planting. Optimistically I sowed the first seeds at the end of January with the hope that we would be settled by March 1st. That has not happened!

The seedlings germinated and got leggy as seedlings are apt to do when they are sat near a window but without an extra light source. I was not about to buy a light so I needed to find a better way to get light to them. Resourcefulness is the key to surviving in temporary situations, so I dragged out an empty container to protect the seedlings outside.

mini gh

The seedlings are in recycled butter tubs and a pastry tray with the covering an empty water bottle shrink wrap covering. Today, as it was damp and cloudy, I gave them their first try at the real outdoors. They wafted around in the breeze for about 2 hours and are now back in their protected cold frame.

seedlings outside

On the relocation front we have hit an issue with a barn. The township says it is out of code and in disrepair. The guesses about how much it would cost to remove that were based on nothing and the assumption that it needed to be taken down have been going around for a few days now. So I have someone who knows about barns to take a look at the building and see what is there, and what state it is in. The realtor wanted a structural engineer to take a look at a cost of several hundred bucks as against this guy who knows what old barns should look like and is swinging by on the way back from another meeting. Hopefully I will be able to update the post by late afternoon with some images of the barn too.

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Phase one of the move is over

The first phase of the move from Ohio to New Jersey is over – ie we moved out of Ohio and are in New Jersey. We are not in the final house yet but hopefully that will be soon. The plants were bare rooted before they were moved to make them easier to pack. The weather last week was mild enough to put them back into containers and they are now on the apartment back porch. I hope they survive as the weather has been very cold (minus zero wind chills) and they are only in small containers albeit very huddled together. The plastic bags are so that they can be covered up again for transporting when we move.

The plants when the arrived packed in bags

The plants when the arrived packed in bags

I hope the weather will break in the next few days and let them thaw out a little! As apartments goes this one is OK and we are on the ground floor. Out at the back is a natural area owned, I think, by the university – ie Princeton. It is too cold to go sit and take more than a quick photo!

A meadow over the hill

A meadow over the hill

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On the move again!

Plants waiting to go to New Jersey


After a brief two years in Ohio, we are moving again! This time to New Jersey which is slightly warmer than Ohio and a much milder winter, I hope. The target date was early winter like November, but it seems now that it will be nearer to early January that we move. The house is on a wooded hillside and will be quite shady compared to here but hopefully I will find some sunny places to grow great veggies and sunny borders.

In preparation for the move, I have uprooted, divided and generally potted up things that I want to take with me. They were bare rooted and in general potting soil in containers and closer to the move they will be inspected by the state inspector before transportation. They are currently waiting to get cold and go dormant and then they will be able to be packed up when we move. As the move looks like it is going to be in the middle of winter, I am going to move two large bags of potting mix into the basement, and the containers will be brought into the garage  so that they can be bare rooted again for transport and re-potted when I get there. Then they will wait for spring for planting. Messy is the word that describes this move in many ways, but hopefully by spring things will be improving.


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Vegetables and Flowers DO look Good Together

Pools demand some sort of adornment around the edges and although I am not a container person, I do have a couple. These are plastic buckets from the box store last year and I have filled them with some little tomatoes, peppers and a lantana.

The vegetables are from a line of container bred hybrids and they are all doing quite well. I am trying Tumbling Tom, a yellow cherry tomato; Patio Princess, a red tomato and Fairy Tale mini eggplant and all are performing very well. The lantana is from Proven Winners and called Luscious Berry Blend and from a distance, it mimics the tomato colors too.

The tomatoes drape over the side of the containers while the eggplant is a very compact upright plant. Right now the little eggplants are about an inch or so in length, but they will retain the slightly mottled skin tone which makes it very attractive too.

The tomatoes were the earliest to mature and although little cherry tomatoes usually ripen before the full sized tomatoes, the little Patio Princess has also produced some close to full size, very even colored tomatoes. Most of the heirlooms are still growing but there are plenty there and it will be a much better tomato year than last year.

The beans have been a disaster this year – between ground hogs, rabbit and deer the whole garden has been under attack and the beans took the brunt of the assault. Couple the animal attack with some little bug that refuses to show itself yet is skeletonizing the leaves – the harvest has been drastically affected. Maybe fall crops will do better for me this year because the beans will be ripped out as soon as I need the space. Unlike summer crops, the fall crops do not need pollinators so they can spend their time under a light insect/animal cloth. Next year, the area will be surrounded and groundhog/rabbit/deer proof.

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Almost 2 years on

Next week when we hit July, it will be two years that we have been in this garden. Although it may have looked a mess before this past weekend’s clean up, it did only take a weekend to do both beds which is much better than the whole season to clear just the one bed last year! The problem was that the only garden bed there was not only covered by weeds, but had landscape fabric underneath about 4 inches of granitic rock chips! Most of the chips are not off the garden but it took a long time and the ground is still rather pebbly even now making working with anything larger than a Cobra Head weeding tool impractical – again this is better than last year when using anything bigger than the Cobra Head in the rocks was impossible. My general method was to clear some rocks,take them by the bucket full to the shed area,  tear up the fabric and drag it to the garbage, then attack the weeds. By working on small areas at a time, I was able to at least plant a few perennials and by the end of the year the garden was at least workable and some plants survived. It is time like this that it is worth taking a look at how far you have come rather than fixate on what has been achieved, so here is a before and two years on image:


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D is for daffodils or course!


Daffodils are the trumpets heralding spring – or so some poet thought. Without a doubt though they do provide a wonderful end to winter and even if a late frost, or snow, arrives, they carry on regardless. Better buy online viagra yet they are not bothered by deer! The biggest problem though is that I get impatient for spring and find myself walking around the garden begging them to grow and prove that spring is here.

Last winter was perhaps the longest one I had endured for quite a while and being in a new location I had not put in any spring bulbs and did not know what was there from the previous owners – not a lot! So this year I did order bulbs, and I bought some from the box stores and planted dozens. Then I planted some in containers that had perennials and annuals in from the summer. What I really wanted though was a guarantee of spring color for Easter and was not going to let nature take that away from me this year. Little did I know that winter was going to be virtually a non event, and my insurance was to put some left over bulbs in the beer fridge to be forced into bloom on my time not nature’s.

January arrived and I came across the bulbs and planted then in little containers which resided in the master bathroom for a while. By the end of February they were peaking through but so were the ones outside. As time progressed my indoor bulbs languished and finally did put out a few little flowers which would have been great if there was snow outside, but as it happened the outdoor daffodils arrived before my indoor ones and looked much better than my attempts.

So nature obviously does some things better than me, and that is fine, but I will try the forcing idea again – but this time I will be armed with a brand new book by Art Wolk: Bulb Forcing (which is great) and will actually pay attention to which varieties I plant indoors, rather than use the ones that were left over from outside!

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C is for Calamints


                    Calamint officinalis                                                              Showy Variegated Calamint

Calamints are another of the perfectly polite perennial herbs and I first came across them many years ago. The plant was named Calamentha calamentha which was a lovely plant with pretty pink flowers. Alas I lost the plant when we moved. A few years later I was giving a tour of the Virginia State Arboretum herb garden and Tom DeBaggio was doing a book signing at the same event. I asked him about the plant as I was not able to track it down again. He identified it as Calamentha grandiflora or Showy Calamint. There are also several other calamints which are part of the mint flower. The smaller calamints have small leaves and pretty little white flowers which makes the whole plant look like a shaggy green soccer ball covered in blossom! The showy calamint though is definitely a beautiful plant and whether you get the variegated leaf or the green leaf they are both great additions to the perennial bed as well as the herb garden. In warmer climates  keep the variegated calamint in some light shade so that it doesn’t burn. The variegated one is also not quite as hardy as the standard green calamint and may only be hardy to zone 6 unless it is protected in winter.

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B is for Betony – a perfect perennial herb

Betony, Stachys officinalis was one of the first herbs that I grew that were not strictly culinary. It has a wonderfully colorful history as being a one-stop-fix for everything from arrow wounds to serpent bites, and bruises to tonics. More than that, betony  makes a lovely herb for the garden. The mid green leaves come up reliably each spring around the time the doaffodils bloom and in late spring the pink flower arrives. The flower lasts for about 3-4 weeks, which is not too bad by perennial standards

What makes it a perfect perennial herb though is that the rosette slowly grows larger each year – not enough to need dividing every year, but just enough to be able to divide and give one to a friend when you want to.

So perfect polite perennials herbs have brightly colored blooms, do not set seed around the neighborhood and do not require division every couple of years, unless you want to. There is always room for perfectly polite perennial herbs in my garden.

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A is for Azaleas – the party gals of spring

Azaleas are some of the most colorful early season shrubs. In spring, when nature returns life to the garden, the trees put out blossom, the birds sing in celebration and the azaleas bloom! These azaleas are naturally large shrubs that flower with abandonment in reds and pinks. Unfortunately some people buy these wonderful shrubs only to make meatballs out of them by pruning them into neat shapes. The azaleas bloom on last year’s wood so pruning and ‘neatening’ them in late winter takes out all the buds, but so does constant summer pruning to the keep the shrub controlled.

Modern azaleas include the popular reblooming ‘Encore’ series that puts out a first flush of color in spring, them continues to put out blooms through the summer. These rarely need much in the way of pruning, just a little tidying in spring after the first bloom is over.  The native azaleas come in lovely oranges and whites plus some pastel colors and these do not need pruning either if they are placed in the right location. They look at home in the understory of trees and along open woodland paths.

What never looks good on an azalea is the ‘cupcake’ syndrome which people tend to make them into. Although spring is nature’s party, we do not need cupcakes in the landscape!


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The Miniature Iris

Up until a day or so ago I had always thought of miniature iris as reticulata and blue in color. Last year though I purchased a mixed bag of miniature iris and the colors are far from dark blue. Mine include a burgundy/maroon color and a delicate pale blue.

When I went back to the catalogue and checked my order, it seems that the pale blue are a variation of the reticulata and, although the page does list an I. histrioides which looks definitely like my little guy. Matching pictures is the only way I can assess this because I have not idea how the it is different from a reticulata except in color.

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