These Newsletters will be available in a printable format soon.
FALL IS FOR PLANTING! Plant a perennial flower or herb in the fall and it has all winter to put down roots and come back big in the spring. No scorching sun, no hot drought, no bugs.
What about those AFTER-BLOOM PERENNIALS? If you are not saving seeds or leaving the seed heads for the little birds, coneflower, for example, then your plants will be better if you cut them back to the new growth at the base. They will put their effort into roots instead of making seeds. This does not apply to flowering shrubs which, in general, should be pruned after blooming.
CHICKEN REPORT Skip this article if you don’t care about chickens. We did it again; got more chickens! Andy’s friend George discovered a Chinese market in Philadelphia, but not in Chinatown that sells live poultry reasonably that they will dispatch for you on the spot. They decided to do a chicken rescue. We now have four new hens (I hope they are hens, two are still quite young) which Andy picked out and which cost a lot more than the original plan. We don’t know the breed, but they look like they will be pretty. George is looking forward to visiting their chicken children.
THE PURGE If you got this newsletter in the mail, you have survived the dreaded purge. If you are only reading it on-line, you are off the list. If you want to be back on, call, text, email. If you are no longer interested, please call, text, email. Postage went up to 58 cents. WAS NOT ABLE TO MAIL.
We are up to our eyeballs in LAVENDER. All perennial varieties that we like and a good size. Want to plant a whole row? Discounts available for four or more.
I hate LANTERN FLIES more than ground ivy! I think I still hate the yellow aphids on milkweed more than either one.
Odd effect of lantern flies: We have had, in years past, lots of GARLIC CHIVES on the hill where we had our original herb garden. Not so many there in recent years. However, the nasty sticky stuff from lantern flies that turns everything black killed off the competition. We now once again have a wonderful stand of garlic chives that apparently don’t mind the black ground. Strange.
When in bloom they make a lovely moon garden, like a floating white cloud.
What is up with the MONARCHS this year? We have a ridiculous amount of milkweed and see quite a few butterflies but almost no caterpillars. Also, we were watching a few smallish caterpillars and they just disappeared. Birds? At least we seem to have gotten the praying mantises under control. We caged two caterpillars and have one chrysalis. Very exciting!
JAPANESE STILT GRASS Just what we needed, a new foreign invasive! I should have identified this sooner, now I have huge swaths of it in pasture and other places. Look it up. Watch for it. Pull it out before bloom, it is an annual. Nothing can eat it, not the cow, not the deer. Do you think it came with the lantern flies?
I was thinking about our NATIONAL MOTTO; e pluribus unum ‘From many, one’ and realized we plant growers are going for the opposite effect ‘From one, many’ That’s how we increase our gardens and that’s how I can make money!
SALE: We still have some lovely CORAL BELLS. You can have them for $5.00 off regular price. We also have many NEW ENGLAND ASTERS which are just starting to bloom. Regularly $8, you can have them for $6. They are a good butterfly plant. If happy they get very tall. Best to cut them back in June.
We made it to both STATE FAIRS! The New Jersey Fair was somewhat limited as far as vendors and animals due to the fact that the final decision to have it was made in May. We nevertheless managed to eat lots of fair food and see our friends who have all the great Nepalese merchandise which is our weakness. Looking forward to next year!
The WV Fair was good as usual except it poured rain our last night when we went to see all the beautiful lights. For some odd reason, we got all into the judging of pigs. It uses a whole different language which we tried to retain the rest of the day.
It seems the longer I do this growing thing, the more I see the line blurred between annual and perennial. We have a HOT PEPPER plant in the living room window which came from our parrot seed. This is its third year. It looks terrible because the cats chew it, but there it is, still with us.
There is an ORNAMENTAL KALE in the market that has come back from the root for the third year. It has a long stem, but is pretty anyway.
Then there are all those perennial MUMS we buy every year that maybe would be perennial if we planted them immediately, otherwise you can forget it.
I once kept a BASIL into its third year by cutting it back and hauling it in the house in the fall. I guess it got a bit brittle because I finally snapped it off at ground level and that was the end. By the way, we have several enormous basils who would be good candidates for your house.
Mark (You remember my son Mark in WV) was very unhappy with his CUT-LEAF CONEFLOWER (rudbeckia laciniata). It topped out at about seven feet in a totally inappropriate spot. I loved it. When I had it for sale, I always gave a warning. Unfortunately, deer love it too.
MOSQUITOES have been terrible. I know they don’t fly very far, but I can’t seem to find where they are breeding. It has been a wet year which hasn’t helped.
Della (You remember Della, our 24-year-old cow) has been plagued with enormous horse flies that defy all kinds of repellant. There are brown ones and black ones. Andy smacked a black one on her side and had a blood covered hand. It left a 10-inch blood streak down her side. They also breed at the edge of water. The larva bite! Life seems to be a battle against nature this year.
GARDEN STATE GARDENS consortium is an informational site for a number of public gardens in New Jersey. Their website and brochure will give you addresses and facilities available, but you must go to the individual garden websites to find out what is actually there. Website is gardenstategardens.org.
Of course, Rutgers Gardens, Grounds for Sculpture and the NJ State Botanical Garden/Skylands are included, but we tried a new one for us
The Sister Mary Grace Burns Arboretum is at Georgian Court University in Lakewood. Antique statuary, huge planted urns, Japanese garden, Mansion and Sunken Garden (Sadly in need of repair but has the best lions!) are some of the features. College was not in session when we visited so we were able to explore pretty freely.
Dr. Michael Gross from Georgian Court gave an excellent zoom presentation to our Garden Club on the various gardens. I took careful notes on which ones we may like to visit, then put them in a safe place. You all know how that works.
Do you have PICTURE THIS app on your phone? I was a bit reluctant, seemed to be a lazy way of avoiding research. I have become a believer. Not only do you identify your plant in question, there is lots of other info about it. Yes, of course it’s not free but well worth $2.99 a month or $19.99 a year. This app does not access all your photos unless you ask for that. Some do, so watch it.
Are ROSEMARYS winter hardy? That is a more complicated question than you would think. The short answer is ‘sometimes’. The long answer is ‘it depends’ on variety, location, weather and apparently some unknown mysterious factors. Several varieties: Arp, Salem, Hill Hardy, have a better chance buuuut there is a Gorizia, not supposed to be hardy, in a large pot at the Mt. Laurel 9/11 Memorial that has survived the elements for at least three years. It is huge and gorgeous.
We have a mixed planter in the most exposed spot possible with a Mrs. Howard’s Creeping Rosemary that not only survives but blooms twice a year. They seem in general to do well at the shore. Are rosemarys winter hardy? It depends.
My computer says plural should be ‘rosemaries’ but to me that is a group of women named Rosemarie. I will do it my way.
Solving RETIREMENT PROBLEMS. As I told you last newsletter, Andy retired in June. We are still trying to get some sort of meal schedule sorted out. I think I have a solution for one of our difficulties. Okay, my difficulty. Andy likes to spend a fair amount of time on the computer, playing games, watching videos. Since he worked at night for twenty years and either wasn’t here or was sleeping, I streamed my favorite hometown radio station quite a lot. In case you have forgotten, it is WJEJradio.com out of Hagerstown, MD. Problem. Solution? I am going to get a laptop and speakers and keep them in the kitchen. Maybe even a supplemental keyboard. Done!
Have you all been to the BURLINGTON COUNTY FARMERS MARKET on Centerton Road? I will be there at least through September. The market is open through October, with two special holiday markets on November 20 and December 4. Bring lots of money. The Christmas in July market was wildly popular with many interesting vendors. Saturdays 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM.
I just bought a new KEYBOARD online with bigger letters for my non-typing brain. Why don’t they sell them at Staples? It’s super if your eyes aren’t great or your light not too bright. 20 bucks.
We had a customer who texted me from the bell stand and said she couldn’t find the bell.
Come see us. Ring the bell.
Merry Autumn Days
‘Tis pleasant on a fine spring morn We hail the merry autumn days,
To see the buds expand, When leaves are turning red,
‘Tis pleasant in the summertime Because they’re far more beautiful
To see the fruitful land; Than anyone has said.
‘Tis pleasant on a winter’s night We hail the merry harvest time
To sit around the blaze, The gayest of the year;
This newsletter then is a BLATANT ADVERTISEMENT for our market, including the Burl. Co. Farmers Market. We have pretty much everything you could possibly want and it all looks great. Five varieties of lavender; five varieties of sage including white sage for cleansing; bronze fennel, rue and lovage for your swallowtails (parsley on small side); plenty of lemon verbena including one enormous plant and so on.
I am quite proud of producing a nice crop of salad burnet. Tastes like cucumber, perennial, almost evergreen, and a pretty plant besides. I also read somewhere that it makes a cute houseplant.
Our NATIVE PLANT SELECTION is looking pretty good. I am kind of excited to have swamp milkweed, purple coneflower, great blue lobelia (lobelia siphilitica), Joe Pye weed and white turtlehead (chelone glabra). We had cardinal flower but only a very few left.
Previous newsletter I talked about planting rudbeckia triloba seeds and having success with germination. They are not what I expected; called brown-eyed Susans, they are looking great and ready to go. They are considered a short-lived perennial, which means two or three years and will usually self sow.
Did you have any CICADAS? I can honestly say we did not see even one here. We saw some in Arlington and surrounding area in June, but not huge numbers as they expected.
Thankfully, our GEESE only hatched one baby. The two girls fought so over the eggs, rolling them back and forth from one nest to the other, it’s amazing that any hatched. Of course, we don’t know yet if boy or girl gosling but already as big as dad.
I am weak; I have no will power. After vowing to get NO MORE CHICKENS, I was tempted by my supplier beyond my resistance and acquired three buff Orpingtons and one big fluffy white Orpington (Poofey II). Getting a few eggs.
The OSTRICH FERNS we potted up were tougher than I thought. After totally collapsing and losing all their fronds, they had a vigorous surprising rebirth. I sold them, of course. One left.
My Wall Street Journal says there is quite a recent interest in NATURAL POOLS. That’s right, no chlorine, swim among the water lilies and frogs. Yes, they still have to be installed properly; yes, they still need regular maintenance including caring for the many plants recommended.
Nevertheless, it sounds like an interesting concept. Initial cost is about the same as a chlorine
pool, probably not including the plants.
Are you chewing your way through your shrubs and plants? Could you do it faster with your teeth? Don’t waste effort and ruin your expensive pruners, not to mention mutilating your victims. For a small fee Andy will sharpen any of your cutters. He can usually have them in a day or two. Mt. Laurel Garden Club members get free sharpening.
SAGE ADVICE as promised. Every year about this time I always remind you what to do with your blooming sage. When it is done blooming and you have at least several inches of new growth down inside the plant, cut off all the old growth with spent blooms down to the new growth. Yes, cut it off. You can do it. Otherwise in a few years you will have a big plant with long branches and tufts of leaves on the ends.
In my previous newsletter (which is still posted on our website, in case you missed it) I said that a fairly extensive LAVENDER paper would be posted under ‘Apothecary’ and I see it is not. My apologies and I will see that it is done.
BUTTERFLY REPORT Skip over this if you hate butterflies. Actually, not much to report yet. We have seen two American painted lady caterpillars which must be fairly numerous, we just don’t usually see them. We haven’t had very many black swallowtail caterpillars but we did see a female butterfly laying eggs on the bronze fennel a few days ago. I rescued a nessus sphinx moth from my greenhouse two days ago. This is a really cool-looking day-flying rather large moth with two bright yellow bands around its abdomen. Hopefully we are beginning to recover from the plague of praying mantises the last two years.
I have not been able to buy in ‘ICE BALLET’ SWAMP MILKWEED for quite a long time so I bought seeds without much hope. To my amazement, one grew quite quickly and others followed over time, totalling seven. The last one took fully eight weeks to germinate! After babying them along in my little greenhouse to about average six inches, but not looking closely, I kind of suddenly realized they were being eaten by four Monarch caterpillars! Noooo! Not my Ice Ballet babies! In the greenhouse! Then tragedy struck. I went in to check on them and one was being eaten by a large praying mantis! In the greenhouse! I was so angry I just put my foot on it and didn’t even feed it to the chickens. Watch out for praying mantises, they are not your butterflies’ friends.
Did you know that Brown’s Mills has a population of genuine ALBINO DEER? They are protected from hunting. We have one around with a lot of white, but it is not likely an actual albino with the pink eyes and all that.
Do you have CATS OR DOGS in your house? You need to stay away from those plug-in oil dispersers. They spray tiny droplets that get in your animals’ fur and subsequently get ingested by licking. Essential oils can be quite toxic, mostly causing digestive system damage.
Do our houses really stink that much? Do we need constant cover-up smells?
I did see an idea for dispensing oil smells that seems harmless. Put a basic thin oil in a narrow-necked bottle, add a few drops of essential oil and put in several bamboo skewers. They should absorb the oil and disperse the fragrance.
We are, as usual, battling the DEER. We are also feeding them cracked corn every night which yes, I know, is pretty dumb. I have had some luck with a spray of one tablespoon of Murphy’s Oil Soap to a quart of water, but it must be done pretty much every night. One little button buck is getting quite tame. I hope he doesn’t find the hunters in season.
Hooray! Both STATE FAIRS we always attend are on this year! West Virginia has a sign which counts down the days to the fair. Last year it was quite discouraging to see over 400 days on the sign.
PLANTING ANNUALS/PLANTING PERENNIALS They are not the same. If you are sure you know all about this, skip to next item. Perennials need to be planted at a certain depth with the crown or base of the plant at the proper place at surface of the soil. Many do not like mulch pushed right up around them and will respond with various fungi or get eaten by critters harboring in the mulch. Many annuals can and should be planted much deeper than their existing roots, even so far as up to their leaves. They will put out new roots the length of the stem and grow much sturdier. Just a few that will benefit from this are tomatoes, peppers, basil, zinnias, marigolds and celosias.
Here is the dreaded BOTANICAL NAME LESSON. A ‘ch’ in a botanical name is always pronounced like a ‘k’. So ‘stachys’ (which is the lamb’s ear family) is pronounced ‘stake-es’. Agastache is ag-a-sta-ke. Easy?
ANDY HAS RETIRED as of mid June! How is that working out? We will get it figured out in time. He has been doing some jobs here that have been needing to be done and helping me out with market stuff. We have to learn to communicate better; sometimes we both do the same chore and sometimes it doesn’t get done at all. Meals are total fiasco. We’ll get it...
I am still president of the MOUNT LAUREL GARDEN CLUB. I am proud that we have continued to be active through all Covid time period. We had well attended zoom meetings with interesting programs and have maintained activities such as planting the Veterans Memorial in Laurel Acres Park, making wreaths for Township buildings and decorating a tree at Morven in Princeton. Interested? We will be resuming our regular meetings in September as always. We meet at the Mt. Laurel Community Center on the third Monday of the month at 11 AM. Check out our website. You don’t have to wait till fall.
We are once again awash in SPOTTED LANTERNFLIES. They don’t seem to do much damage except the sticky mess from the sap they drop. The red instars would make a pretty bracelet.
We are still using mostly what is officially called mechanical-physical control, short for smashing them.
Funny thing is, I cannot find any pictures of how those smallish red-spotted instars turn into those enormous adults. Where do they do it? Is it magic? Anyone?
“May I keep PLANTING THROUGH THE SUMMER?” I hear you asking. The answer is generally yes. Anytime you take a potted plant and put it in the ground or a larger pot, it is going to be happier as long as you are committed to adequate water. If you want to move a tree or shrub, divide perennials or seed a lawn (Do any of you have proper lawns?) I suggest you wait till fall.
Come see us. Ring the bell.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE! I looked myself up on Bing for some reason or the other and found that I am permanently closed! Google was a little better, only temporarily closed there. Now whatever am I going to do with all these beautiful plants? Thankfully, Mark (You remember Mark, my computer guru son in WV) was able to sort them out. Not easy.
Oops, just checked. Looks like we are permanently closed again. Very frustrating.
What’s with the POSTCARDS? Printing and postage for as many newsletters as I send was getting too expensive. If I do a purge of people not heard from in a season, I still have to send them all. Why not email? Stuff gets lost into spam or just missed. I hope this new plan works for you. Now if the Post Office will only deliver in a timely manner...
NOTE: I hate the postcards! May have to do a purge.
We made a new GREENHOUSE! Since we had the hoops still up from a former one, all we had to do (Haha.) was make new ends and side pieces, install the pallets and put on the plastic. It’s pretty far back from the market so I will either get fit or break down completely. Actually, I love it. Thank you, Andy!
Do we have everything you want? WE DO! All the usual herbs and perennials and, of course, some new ones. I think basil pesto perpetuo is the best new basil in years. It has great scent and flavor, gets quite large, doesn’t rush to bloom and is beautifully variegated. All the other basils are coming on soon.
We have all the usual CONEFLOWERS you would expect, plus I brought in one of the newish ‘butterfly’ series called ‘Orange Skipper’. Bring your mortgage.
Each year in the fall I remove most of the IDENTIFICATION TAGS from the leftover plants and put many of them by the barn for the winter. Then I put the tags in a safe place. As of yet, I have not found that safe place. I think the repeated snow cover helped the overwintering plants and quite a number look really good. Now if I can just figure out what they are! Herbs are easy, but some of the perennials have me stumped.
Last fall we renovated the little BUTTERFLY GARDEN by our falling down shed. I have always edged it with large clam shells. The problem is, we expanded it somewhat and I didn’t have enough large clam shells. Anyone?
Remember JOHNNY JUMP-UPS? I once again have the newer slightly larger version called ‘Penny jump-ups’. They are supposed to self-sow like the original. I also have seed for the original which is ‘Helen Mount’. We’ll see.
Perhaps this is a good spot for your dreaded BOTANICAL NAME LESSON: Cochineal refers to scale insects native to Mexico and South America and to the dye carmine, which is made by crushing their little dead bodies to extract the color. It used to be used more widely in food, lipsticks, drinks, etc. and is totally safe, but the ‘yuck’ factor made it fall out of favor. The name remains, however, and if you see any form of cochineal in a botanical name, it means red. Just one case in point: centranthus ‘coccineus’, Common name is red valerian which drives me nuts.
I have read that this dye is starting to regain favor in some quarters as a safer alternative to some chemical dyes. There is still a good chance it will be in your ruby red grapefruit juice.
Yes, we still want your POTS AND FLATS. If you are not shopping, just put them somewhere around the bell. Thank you.
REMEMBER, THE LAST SAFE FROST DATE FOR YOUR TENDER ANNUALS AND VEGETABLES IS MAY 15TH.
I will once again this year be a vendor at the BURLINGTON COUNTY FARMERS MARKET on Centerton Road. In case you have forgotten, it is open Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM. First day open was May 8. Bring lots of money. We have become hooked on the challah hamburger rolls and I am enamored of the lavender/vanilla/honey ice cream.
I will be making a trip to my NATIVE PLANT supplier in MD. If there is anything you need, within reason, I can probably fit it in for you. Call or email ASAP. Hoping to get swamp milkweed and cardinal flowers, among other things.
Looks like this is supposed to be a BUGGY YEAR. There are those spotted lantern flies again; we will see how they fared the winter. Oddly, although we had hundreds on our ailanthus trees last year, I can’t see a single egg mass anywhere. Perhaps all the squashed ones put them off. Later note: found a few egg masses, two on a dead tree and one on a maple tree.
I believe I can guess one reason lantern flies are so many. I guess you know they are not flies or moths, but enormous leaf-hoppers. We are starting to see some of the first in-stars now and they are the cutest bugs you can imagine. They look like tiny, fat little black beetles with tiny white dots. You just feel bad killing them. They also jump rapidly when threatened.
We are also, of course, expecting the 17-year cicadas. If I recall from the last time, they are only in certain areas. We had very few here. They are fairly amazing when they are numerous. You can find all the info you can possibly want on ’cicada mania’ including, believe it or not, some really clever shirts and mugs.
MARK For MAYOR! Yes, Mark (you remember Mark) is running for Mayor in Ronceverte, WV. He is pretty well known, but also possibly still an outsider from the North. Election is in June.
Our GEESE have been giving us loads of trouble. They were so loud all the time, especially at night, that we did find a home for two of them. They have been wanting to wander where they shouldn’t and fighting fiercely, but now the two girls are setting (Noooo!) so the boys are sticking close to home and not fighting so much.
We still only have two CHICKENS. Lolita is gorgeous. If there is a poultry show this year and she hasn’t been eaten, I might take her.
Is LADY’S MANTLE (alchemilla mollis) an herb? Yes and no. It is one of those plants with many possible uses, especially for women’s problems, but not proven effective. As you may see from the botanical name, it was also somehow involved with alchemists quest for gold. From a historical perspective, inclusion in a medicinal garden is certainly proper. Oh yes, if you rub those pearly dew-drops on your face, they will keep the wrinkles away! In stock? How could I not? Sun if well-watered, otherwise part shade.
STATE SONGS As many of you know, I am originally from Maryland. Andy expected me to be upset that ‘Maryland, my Maryland’ seems to be on its way out. That is actually fine with me. I am a lyrics person. I know many, many lyrics to many, many songs. So the state song goes
“Da dadada, da dadada, Maryland, my Maryland”. So very forgettable and, I believe, very violent. Let it go. Get a new one or write new words.
Do you know that New Jersey is the ONLY state without an official state song? West Virginia has three official state songs. Songwriters: Submit your entries.
Perhaps plant suppliers thought THE WORLD IS GOING TO END so I will stop growing all this stuff. I can’t find butterfly bushes anywhere; there only seem to be about two colors of phlox and bee balm, also no bleeding hearts of any kind and no amsonias. I am working on propagating what bee balms I have, but there won’t be much this year. I have a number of survivors from last year or earlier. I have to wait till they bloom so I know the color.
DRIFT ROSES We are still very happy with our drift roses outside the fence. We looked up pruning them and recommendations wanted us to cut them back to six inches. That is definitely not happening. I want them to bloom in May, not July. I took the hedge clippers a bit to some of the big ones and did some careful pruning and cleaning out to all. They look great!
We have HELLEBORES again! They are such fabulous shade plants. One of mine has been blooming since January, the others since mid-March. Last year they never seemed to stop. We have two colors in stock, nice big plants. Common name is Lenten rose.
I have had it with the OSTRICH FERNS. We potted up some singles which looked good for two weeks then collapsed. They are taking over my shade garden. I am going to pop most of them out and put them in a nearby weedy area where they can live or die as they please. Too bad, they sure are pretty.
Like TULIPS? Check out the Dunkin Donuts at Rt. 38 and Briggs Road. Fabulous display!
Why do we ‘RUE THE DAY’? It is the bitterness. Rue is very bitter and is even sometimes used as the bitter herb at Passover seders.
Let’s talk about PLANTING SEEDS. It’s not always as scary as it sounds. I bought seeds for rudbeckia triloba which is, I believe, the self-sowing black-eyed Susan I want. I will quote the seed packet: ”Sow 6-7 weeks before last frost. For best results pre-chill for 30 days. Cover seed lightly (to a depth of no more than 1/64”) Place seed flats outdoors or in the refrigerator and keep moist for 30 days” And so on and on. I said “That ain’t happening.”
I filled eight pots with my soil mix, spread the seeds on top, patted them in a bit and put them in the greenhouse. I have at least 20 tiny plants in each pot. Just plant your seeds. Bigger seeds deeper, tiny seeds shallower. Keep moist but not soggy. Just do it.
Need more LAVENDER INFO? We are posting a piece that I put together for the Garden Club when we couldn’t meet and didn’t know how to zoom. It will be posted under ‘apothecary’.
Come see us. Ring the bell.
Gloria and Andy
THERE ARE A COUPLE OF NEWSLETTERS MISSING WHICH I WILL POST AS SOON AS I AM ABLE. CHECK BACK IN A DAY OR 2.
Yes, we are open. Yes, we have a normal amount and variety of plants. Yes, you can walk around and there is plenty of space to be apart if that is what you want. End of topic.
My Grandmother always said, “You eat a peck of DIRT before you die.” Now science is saying that eating that dirt is good for us. Apparently raising your own herbs and vegetables and not getting them quite so sterile clean before eating helps our bodies to tolerate exposure to bacteria and the like and stay healthy. Toughens us up, so to speak. This applies to stuff we grow, not the lettuce that fell on the floor at the supermarket.
Now for my obligatory comments on the WEATHER. I agree winter really didn’t show up this year. Our mixed display pot has a Mrs. Howard’s creeping rosemary that isn’t very hardy. Yet there it is, blooming beautifully on two long branches. I don’t think my Peace rose ever went fully dormant. Of course, you can’t tell. OUR LAST SAFE FROST DATE FOR TENDER ANNUALS IS STILL MOTHER’S DAY. Last night temperature was in 30’s. Maybe colder tonight.
We have four newly hatched GOSLINGS! It is so exciting! Mom and Dad are very protective to the point that a good picture is almost impossible. Whenever you get close enough, they walk away so all pictures are from the rear. These are new geese from those we had last year. They were meant to be all girls, but you see how that worked out.
Our old gander (32) is now living with the chickens for his safety’s sake. He doesn’t mind.
As usual, I couldn’t resist having food and drink related CORAL BELLS (heuchera). We have Champagne, Cherry Cola, Electric Plum, Peach Flambe- more to come.
We have become enamored with HELLEBORES. The two that we bought as babies two years ago have been wonderful, blooming forever where nothing else succeeded except rampant trumpet vine and honeysuckle. So we bought two more. $$$$$. The good news is, we have some for you at an only slightly outrageous price. They look great. I just must remember they are not for me.
Our DRIFT ROSES outside the fence look incredible. Seems like the buried moth crystals actually did keep mice from eating the roots. If you want to use this method of protection, be sure to bury the crystals adequately so birds don’t think they are something edible.
Okay, now here comes the complaint! Mt. Laurel has cancelled all LEAVE PICK-UP indefinitely. As far as I know, the leaves are picked up by one person driving a truck with a big vacuum tube, then dumped wherever they go. Where is the contact? Shall everyone rake their leaves to the curb for cars to park in and set on fire? Am I being unreasonable here? All the leaves from the woods pile up against our fence and will ultimately cause mold and leaf loss in the previously mentioned roses. My only choice it seems, is to rake them and throw them over the fence. Rather kill the grass than the roses. Once again I ask, am I being unreasonable? Am I the only one unhappy with this decision? Feel free to answer this.
Please continue to watch for PRAYING MANTIS EGG CASES. We are almost having a plague of Biblical proportions. Some people still think the adults are beneficial, but they have become waaay too much of a good thing. We collected upwards of fifty egg cases this winter, mostly in the butterfly bushes and next to the area of milkweed. THEY ARE KILLING OUR CATERPILLARS AND BUTTERFLIES, particularly monarchs. It’s not lack of habitat, (although habitat is always a good thing) it’s these voracious killers.
Most of you know by now that we are State Fair people. We have found a new destination! And it’s in January! (By the way, there are those who think I use too many exclamation points. Tough!) The PA FARM SHOW is held in Harrisburg every year. It is the largest indoor farm show in the country. We spent most of two days and didn’t anywhere near see all of it. And it’s free! Pay $15 to park, get on a shuttle bus and get taken right to the door. With over 6000 animals, you can bet we enjoyed ourselves, although I must say NJ State Fair has more and better poultry, especially chickens. And better food.
Speaking of chickens, I am hear-by announcing a NAME THE CHICKEN CONTEST. I don’t always name my girls, but this one is so gorgeous. She is a black Orpington, which is a big fluffy breed. (Look it up) Her sister, a chocolate Orpington, is Lady Godiva. The prize is one dozen of our lovely free-range eggs. Call, text, email. You have two weeks.
Do you need a big robust FERN to cover some territory where nothing grows? I have it for you. No, I don’t know its name or even where I got it. It’s the variety that gets those fronds that stay through the winter and look like big brown feathers. Name, anyone?
Repeat article from last year when I didn’t have much catnip available:
Do you have CATNIP? Why not? No cats? Let me tell you about catnip, other than making your cat crazy (or extremely mellow). Butterflies and bees love blooming catnip. Activity is constant. With all the flap about helping pollinators by planting natives, don’t forget other popular cultivars. Bees are particularly fond of the tiny flowers of LEMON BALM. By the way, both lemon balm and catnip make a pleasant soothing tea for people.
DEER are getting in trouble already. They don’t normally bother yarrow so I have it on the end of my display (so far, ‘Coronation Gold’ and ‘Paprika’) and they practically mowed it off. But I am trying something new as a deterrent, namely BUBBLE WRAP, the big stuff. I spread it on the ground in front of the at-risk plants hoping that their sharp little hooves will pop the bubbles and put them off. It is my own brilliant idea. I will report back on success or failure. Yes. I have to anchor it somehow and pick it up in the morning, but it is easier than rolling up chicken wire.
I have a NEW COMPUTER, a Christmas gift from Mark with all programs installed and/or transferred.. You remember Mark, my computer expert son in WV. You may also remember that I HATE getting a new computer, but Windows 7 was about to die. I haven’t totally driven him crazy with my questions yet, but the season is just starting. I confess I did get so angry at something it didn’t want to do that I pounded my fist on the desk and frightened the cats. Andy wants to get a much bigger monitor and I don’t. We’ll see, although the fact that I can’t grow parsley means I am not the boss of the house.
BIRD REPORT: If you hate birds, skip this article. STARLINGS are plentiful to say the least, but I like them because they are so smart. I also didn’t realize they do something I didn’t think possible. Their beaks change color with the seasons. I always thought a beak is a beak and that is it. Not so with the starlings. In winter when they are all covered with stars, beaks are black. In summer when they are mostly black with a few stars, beaks are yellow. How do they do that? Birders, do any other species change beak color?
Our MONKSHOOD looks like I will be able to make a few divisions this year. It seems to be hard to come by so I will put a really high price on it. Just kidding. Monkshood is a very neat purple (blue?) perennial with hood-shaped flowers but is extremely poisonous so don’t plant where your dog will run through it. I keep hoping the deer will eat it but no such luck.
We love to grow COMFREY and deer love to eat it. Deer, however, do not like variegated vinca vine. We have a large area of vinca back of the house, so we put our comfrey in large pots and sit them in the vinca. It works! Deer also do not like perilla or sweet Annie so I let it grow amongst other deer tasty plants.
I was able to get ‘AMAZING GRACE’ creeping phlox for you and for me. It has a white bloom with a pink eye. It has grown ‘amazingly’ in WV for Mark (You remember Mark). He keeps dividing and spreading. Besides that, it was one of my mother’s favorite hymns and my grandmother’s name. How could I resist?
If all goes according to plan, I will once again be at the Burlington County FARMERS MARKET on Saturday mornings. We had a good time with it last year and sold some plants besides. The vendors are quite a mixed bag; not always the same ones. Some come every week, some only once a month. Some are very reasonable, some pricy. Come check it out. Centerton Road in Mt. Laurel, 8:30 AM to 1 PM starting probably mid-May.
Sadly, my Mount Laurel Garden Club has had to cancel the PERENNIAL PLANT SALE we always have the end of April. With access to the Library being in doubt, I did not want our members to put in time digging plants only to be cancelled at the last minute.
The Iranian lady in WV who made PERSIAN SYRUP doesn’t seem to be doing it any more. Health issues? At any rate, I liked it so much I am going to have a go at making it myself. It is basically mint, honey and vinegar. There are recipes online. I must wait for enough mint to grow. I will report back. Ruth, here’s hoping
How could I almost forget to tell you to stream my hometown radio station? Joanna the webmaster often likes my pix, too. WJEJradio.com. click on the listen live button.
I’m sorry if this is controversial, but I MUST HAVE MY SAY or I will have stomach cramps. I fail to see the point in not going out in your own car with your very own bacteria, etc. It is spring, the trees are blooming, the tulips are blooming, the landscapers are still keeping everything lovely. Where is the harm in going for a Sunday or Monday or Tuesday drive? We did that waaay back when I was a kid just to look at what was out there. In my original neck of the woods one of our favorite drives was into PA looking for barns with hex signs. Did we stop and get out of the car? Rarely. It was being together as a family. Alright, I admit, sometimes we stopped at Dairy Queen, but strictly to eat our cones in the car. Funny, that Dairy Queen is still there and still no place to sit.
If you MUST get out to walk around, try a cemetery. I guarantee the residents won’t mind.
Or you can come here. Lots of room. Enjoy all our violets. Much prettier than grass.
Ring the bell, I will sanitize it. Seriously.
BEWARE! A certain amount of WHINING directly ahead!
So no goslings this year.
About those YELLOW APHIDS, watch for them vigilantly. They will ruin all of your milkweed and make it inedible for your monarch caterpillars. If you have lots of milkweed, as we do, pull the affected one out, check very carefully for all sizes of caterpillars to move and put your foot on it. If you have limited milkweed, crush the aphids with your fingers (ugh!). Spraying obviously is not an option, you will kill what you are trying to protect.
Keep an eye on your LAVENDER. Excessive rain causes fungus infections. This can do them in fairly quickly. Be sure to keep the base and middle cleaned out. If necessary, prune some out of the middle to open up the plant for light and air.
I always start with the WEATHER. ‘It’s Spring again, and birds on the wing again, start to sing again the old melody.’ That is all I have to say about the lovely weather.
Customers and friends (Wait, my customers are my friends.) always ask me, “How was your winter?” My answer is the same as other years; had big plans as to what I would get accomplished, didn’t do it.
Go there! Many , many (they say 4000) plants and trees, all well marked and cared for. You walk around the college campus, through wooded trails if you like and also admire some of the beautiful buildings. And it is all free. It is about a 45 minute drive, but don’t go during rush hour because you must go out the Blue Route
I believe many of us lost more plants and shrubs than usual this year. It wasn’t really the cold, it was the wet. Lavender especially suffers from wet feet and sometime never recovers. Hidcote is the most likely to get over being mostly top-killed. Cut off the dead and very weak, clean out the leaves and don’t mulch!
Can you believe that the State of New Jersey tax commission, in its infinite wisdom, has set the SALES TAX RATE at 6.625%? Very frustrating. It means I have to use the calculator for every transaction.
As I am sure I have mentioned before, I HATE GROUND IVY. I must admit, though, that when it is having its moment it is pretty. Apparently, it is also appealing to our insects. I was very surprised to see a big bumblebee passing by all the blooming violets to work the ground ivy.
We have a NEW GOOSE! If you hate geese, skip this section. Our female goose, Gracie, has for the past two years laid eggs and set on them faithfully only to hatch nothing. The reason? Our gander is 31 years old and while he is willing, he is no longer a ‘good’ gander. So I took action. I ordered four fertile buff goose eggs online and we exchanged them with her non-hatching eggs. So why the new goose if we are expecting goslings? Our gander is so lonely with Gracie on the nest most of the time, he was driving us nuts with his loud incessant honking. Therefore we got him a girlfriend. Now he is quiet, but the new goose is loud. Oh well, she will settle. We are due to hatch May 10.
Angus also had a pretty HEN I couldn’t resist...
Did you seem a bit short of butterflies last year? We did. Look around your property for PRAYING MANTIS EGGS. These voracious insects eat your butterflies, they eat your caterpillars and a big praying mantis can even catch a hummingbird. I was shocked to see nine praying mantis egg masses in a shrub nearest our best milkweed area where we always have caterpillars. I removed them and will be more vigilant in the future.
A few years ago I was weeding my perennial bed and found many butterfly wings under a phlox. There was the praying mantis, sitting in the blooms, waiting for butterflies. He found a new home somewhere with the grasshoppers and crickets.
We have in stock AQUILEGIA CANADENSIS, the native columbine I love with the red and yellow blooms. There doesn’t seem to be a common common name for this plant. I have seen it called ‘Little Lanterns’ and several other names. Anyway, come and get it, you will love it, too. Likes a bit of shade.
Our variety spotlight this issue falls on STOKES’ ASTER (stokesia laevis) Botanically, it is not an aster, but looks like one. It is native to coastal areas south of us but is generally hardy here. Annnd it doesn’t mind our sandy soil. It comes in various colors of fine big fluffy blooms. Named after Jonathan Stokes, English physician/botanist (1755-1831), we have the variety ‘Honeysong Purple.’
MIGRATORY MINT Sometimes I forget my own advice. I have several big assorted pots out by the road. I was looking at one and asking myself, “Why is this orange mint popping up here and there?” Oh, that’s right, mint moves from where you plant it. The original plant? Dead.
We all have our TO DO LISTS whether mental or physical, but sometimes you need to throw your list out the window (virtually, of course) and do what has been bugging you the most. For example, we have an enormous white butterfly bush that we have both been picking at when we have a minute walking by it. Two days ago I had enough and just finished pruning the whole thing. Should have been doing many other things like maybe writing this newsletter but it was bugging me.
And sometimes you must rise to the occasion and do what you must do, like RUNNING.
#1 You all know we have chickens. You also probably know we have foxes. I was working in the market when I heard squawking and saw the fox making off with one of my hens. I gave chase and the fox kept losing her grip. I was gaining at a fast clip and she dropped the hen and ran off. The hen settled her ruffled feathers and went back to the barn.
#2 Andy was working under the hood of our baby Volvo, changing the fuel filter. He started the engine and saw to his horror that one of the clips was leaking drops of gas onto the hot manifold, making a little fizzing sound. He turned off the engine and made it to the house and back faster than a speeding bullet with the fire extinguisher. Thankfully, no fire. You do what you hafta.
HERB STUFF The rues look great this year. Get one of two for your swallowtails. Nothing else eats it. If your rue gets gangly over time, cut back hard to new growth in spring.
Come and get your parsley before I kill it. It looks really good right now if a bit small, but parsley and I do not get on well together. I guess I am not boss of the house. L
We have five varieties of lavender and five varieties of rosemary. What’s in a name? Phenomenal lavender is very popular. I have yet to plant one myself.
I don’t know if you ever notice the STAMP on your newsletter. Newest one out is a Peace rose, which is my favorite and the only hybrid tea I own. It says PEACE rose. Clever.
PERENNIAL STUFF We have two colors of Buzz butterfly bushes, sky blue and magenta. That is the variety that stays a reasonable size without much pruning.
No Snow Lady shorter shastas, but I got one called ‘Adorable’ which is kind of mounding with lots of short blooms. Also have a fluffy one called ‘Banana Cream’.
We have a new penstemon. It is named ‘Dark Towers’ and has burgundy foliage like ‘HuskerRed’. The difference is that the blooms are pink.
Balloon flowers are so indestructible. They just keep coming back, in the ground, in a pot.
In case you’ve forgotten how to tell BUMBLEBEES from CARPENTER BEES, bumblebees have a furry rear, carpenter bees have a shiny one. It’s pretty obvious. Male carpenter bees can’t sting, females will if you pick them up and squeeze them. Males sometimes act aggressive but it’s all bluff.
Last year I told you about a weird trick to repel carpenter bees, stuffing a brown paper bag and hanging it up so they think it is a hornets’ nest. Believe it or not, it seems to work! Try it and report back.
I have set myself a CRUSADE. I want to get our little Mount Laurel State Park on the list of state parks and recognized as the smallest state park, sixteen acres. In case you don’t know, our park is on the corner of Hainesport-Mt. Laurel Road and Moorestown- Mt. Laurel Road back of Farmers’ Hall. It is a nice little park with marked trails, lots of up and down and a few benches. This is the Mount in Mount Laurel. If you look at the State map of parks and trails, it is there, but when you go to the lists, it is gone. I intend to fix that.
I am considering a mailing list PURGE, but I hate to do it. Perhaps if your tastes have changed, if you stopped by on a whim and will never come back or if I offended you in some way (nah, I am too nice for that) you could email me and I will take you off the list.
Remember, Andy sharpens tools for a nominal fee. If it’s hopeless, he will tell you.
Now? A newsletter at the end of September? Absolutely! Let’s clear out the market so I don’t have to carry all these lovely things to a winter spot. And as I keep telling you:
FALL IS FOR PLANTING!
Plant a perennial flower or herb in the fall and it has all winter to put down roots and come back big in the spring. No scorching sun, no hot drought, no bugs.
Most of our perennials look great with their new post-bloom growth and the herbs have, of course doubled and tripled in size. Even the French tarragon, which has looked terrible all season, is putting out from the base.
Do you know you could probably live on PUMPKIN PIE? Think about it. All the food groups are there: bread in the crust, pumpkin or squash for vegetables, milk and eggs for protein, and that other life essential, sugar. By the way, don’t try to get away without the sugar. Mark bought a sugar free pumpkin pie on sale last year and it was terrible. Tasted like perfume. Not even fit to bring home for the critters.
White Snakeroot is one of the more attractive pain-in-the-neck weeds. Growing up to three feet tall, it makes a good filler in bouquets, looking like tall white ageratum and holding up well. I am sorry about Abraham Lincoln’s mother, but I do allow some fairly large areas of snakeroot. Oddly, it almost never grows in the cow pasture.
HYSSOP is another underused butterfly herb/flower/sub-shrub. We have the one that blooms blue. Hyssop is semi evergreen, which means it pretty much keeps its leaves until new ones in the spring. If, by chance, you hate butterflies, the blooms dry extremely well and hold their color.
The JAPANESE KNOTWEED ‘Crimson Beauty’ is going to be spectacular. Just ask and I will cut some for you, but you have to pick the leaves off yourself. Hang to dry and it will keep its color indefinitely.
A few years back we tried to sell Queen of the Prairie, filipendula rubra, which I got from my friend Lorna. It is a really wonderful native (plains) perennial with a tall naked stalk of shocking pink bloom. I was having trouble coming up with a bloom description so I consulted the internet. Here is some of what I found: plumes, cloud-like, spray-like, wide panicles and wind-tossed fluff or foam. Its only drawback is that the large leaves look very much like pot. People were actually hesitant about those nosy neighbors peering over the fence. Perhaps with legalization on the horizon I should get seeds and see if I can produce a crop of Queen of the Prairie.
want to gamble.
We transplanted a huge RUSSIAN COMFREY from WV and hid it behind some things deer don’t eat. It looks fabulous! Also on that note, we put several pots of comfrey in the middle of a large area of variegated vinca vine, which deer do not like. So far, so good.
Perilla works too, except it gets so tall. We have big drifts of perilla here and there.
at WJEJRadio.com) He can still sing and sounds like himself. Appears a little older. Do you think it could be because he is turning 80 in a few months?
Obligatory comment on the WEATHER: I am sure that the basils and tomatoes among others would like the weather a bit hotter but I am very happy we are having spring this year instead of winter into summer.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS from last newsletter:
The Alaska fern is alive.
We now have three colors of BALMY BEE BALM. Not a lot of rose, so if you want that, better come and get it. Plenty of pink and purple.
The goose eggs didn’t hatch in spite of her vigilant setting. I suppose at age 30 our Knob is no longer a ‘good’ gander. Sad for her.
Last call until mid-August to try the Persian syrup. Call or email if interested.
My LAVENDER POLICY, right or wrong: We currently have five different varieties of lavender in stock. All of them are winter hardy, all of them are traditionally aromatic. The differences are in ultimate size and shape of plant, color of blooms and shade of green in foliage. All need full sun..
That being said, your LAVENDER should be blooming now, so here is some info on harvesting. Skip this section if you know what to do.
If you want your blooms to have color, cut as soon as the first flowers open and hang to dry. Some varieties may be already too far along for this. If you are making wands, stems must be flexible.
If you are only after the dried blooms you can wait till bloom is done, then harvest. Hanging is not necessary as slightly dried stems will be stiff. Don’t wait till stems turn brown and start to drop. Fragrance will be shot.
Obviously, you can choose to let your lavender bloom and not harvest it at all. You will need to trim blooms at some point to keep your plant looking good for next season.
ROBINS made a nest head high right beside our driveway. I thought it was a dumb choice but they successfully raised two babies. Of course they raised a fuss whenever they saw Marmalade or any other perceived threat.
Perennial GERANIUM (Not pelargonium) has always been on my list of plants deer don’t eat. Then they came into my shade garden back of the house and delicately nibbled all the leaves off my two geraniums. But they stopped after two assaults and now both plants are quite large. On the list or off the list? I haven’t decided. Need a list? Just ask.
Let us have a few words about those SCENTED GERANIUMS that are supposed to keep away mosquitoes. Do they work? I have heard many differing opinions. It may depend on the amount of mosquito pressure, in other words, how many mosquitoes you have around. Personally, I feel that any of the rose-scented ones are as helpful as the much more expensive citrosa. To that end, when I am working in the back of the market, I have been bringing my flat of rose geraniums with me and roughing them up every ten minutes or so. It could be stanping my foot to keep away the elephants (You all know that one, don’t you?) but I haven’t had mosquito problems there.
Is LADY’S MANTLE (alchemilla mollis) an herb? Yes and no. It is one of those plants with many possible uses, especially for women’s problems, but not proven effective. As you may see from the botanical name, it was also somehow involved with alchemists quest for gold. From a historical perspective, inclusion in a medicinal garden is certainly proper. Oh yes, if you rub those pearly dew-drops on your face, they will keep the wrinkles away! In stock? How could I not? Sun if well watered, otherwise part shade.
CARPENTER BEES are eating my market! I don’t usually worry about a few holes and a little sawdust but some of my roof beams are getting scary. One of my customers had a weird solution. She said to take a medium size brown bag, stuff it full of paper or plastic, tie it at the top and hang where bees are problem. They are supposed to think it is a hornets’ nest. (Hornets kill and eat them) Will it work? We will find out.
We have a new critter hanging around; a very cute SKUNK who I have of course dubbed Flower. She seems to be fairly tame, no itchy trigger finger if you know what I mean. Andy wants to pick her up and hug her, but I think not a good idea.
While on the topic of skunks, I promised one of my neighbors the formula for cleaning spray. It’s not 100% effective but pretty good. Keep out of eyes.
Skunk remover: 1 Qt. Hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 teas. dishwashing liquid
Plants are so determined to grow, sometimes anyplace will do. Back of our house is a door with two cement steps. In the crack between the steps, about one half inch, was growing violets, lemon balm, bittersweet, a black gum tree, one unknown weed and poison ivy. Amazing! As I have mentioned before, in a sidewalk type situation, all the moisture that falls goes in the cracks.
Andy says I shouldn’t mention TICKS because then nobody will come here. I said, ”Nah. Ticks are part of life.” Anyway, the deer ticks have been horrendous this year and they especially love me. I am becoming quite flexible removing them from those hard-to-reach areas. I may be in the running for contortionist of the year!
BUTTERFLY REPORT I think it will be a good year for butterflies. The parsley is loaded with black swallowtails and I have already seen a tiger swallowtail, several silver-spotted skippers and, surprisingly, a red-spotted purple.
As usual we are rampant with common milkweed but I haven’t gotten in any swamp milkweed yet..
I FOUND MY SEEDS! I don’t know about you, but I never get all the seeds planted that I buy. Until yesterday, I was mystified as to the whereabouts of last year’s seed, most of which would still be viable if stored kinda properly. Then, there they were, in my shed, in a plastic container with a proper lid. Wow! Plenty of time to plant gourds and pumpkins, maybe even some odd basils and malabar spinach. Very exciting.
Call me crazy but after my installation next week, I will once again be President of the MOUNT LAUREL GARDEN CLUB. It is a fine group, very active in events and projects, including several scholarships for Mt. Laurel students, with good meetings and good food. We have two (2!) very active male members and a number of husbands who show up to help on projects. So fellows, if you are interested, you won’t be alone. We meet at the Mt. Laurel Community Center the third Monday of the month, starting again in September. We are active all summer in several areas, so if you are interested, you don’t have to wait till fall. Call me or check out our web site.
Are you chewing your way through your shrubs and plants? Could you do it faster with your teeth? Don’t waste effort and ruin your expensive pruners, not to mention mutilating your victims. For a small fee Andy will sharpen any of your cutters. He can usually have them in a day or two. Mt Laurel GC members get free sharpening.
We would be rich if we didn’t FEED THE BIRDS. Tractor Supply loves us.
As writer of this rag, I can put in pieces that have absolutely nothing to do with herbs or flowers. This is one of them.
When my Mother went in the Home, I got the contents of my Grandmother’s china closet (and the china closet itself) As I knew, in with the dishes and glassware was a bowl, which, as I also knew, was the christening bowl for my Grandmother and Uncle Bert, her younger brother. This was not a large bowl or very pretty and besides it was very badly cracked. What to do? I didn’t feel I could just throw it in the trash. I decided to give it back. Two weeks ago I went to the cemetery in Woodsboro MD with the bowl and a trowel., (It’s a very quiet cemetery.) found my grandparents and buried my problem. Very satisfactory solution.
The old saying is, ”No news is good news.” This is not so good when there is a newsletter to write! I am trying to reach waaay back to the fall and winter for something to excite and inform. Wait a minute! Did I say reach back into the winter? I don’t have to reach very far! Temperatures went down into the 20’s several nights last week. My poor baby plants and sensitive perennials were huddled in the little greenhouse and the minivan. Hopefully all have adjusted now. I put them out and told them, ”You are just going to have to deal with it!”
Just finished spring cleaning our DRIFT ROSES outside the fence. Weather was warm for once so I had short sleeves. Now I look like I have some terrible disease. It is worth every scratch and puncture, however, as they are going to be fabulous. After a couple years of struggle, they are doing just what they are supposed to do. Drifts stay fairly low, about 30 inches with a nice spread. Blooms are smallish, double and profuse and, unlike knock-out roses, very fragrant. If you get them, buy the largest you can for the money and water them religiously the first two years. They have several bloom cycles and deadheading is not necessary.
BIRD REPORT (Not interested in birds? skip this article) Believe it or not, we have just had our first English sparrow in forty years. Yes, I know, they are at the grocery store, flying around in Lowe’s and so on but not here. I keep a list.
We are awash in cowbirds and red-wing blackbirds this year. The chipping sparrows, new to us last year, are seen almost every day. They are very cute, about the same size as the chickadees with a little red-brown crown.
Then there are the crows. They come when I call them, or, if I am slow with the food, I come when they call me. One bold fellow even occasionally comes on the deck for suet.
I find that I have gotten lax with my stock of BASEBALL BAT PLANTS. You know, the ones that you can’t kill with that bat. I intend to do better. I have several already and will soon have more. Plumbago, ajuga, lysimachia, etc.
We will have proper GREEK OREGANO this year, but no basil mint. My source lost their stock and I lost the pots that I planted for stock. I bought a strawberry mint at a show in MD, put it in the basement and killed it. The BAYS in the basement look great. They will be out this weekend for you.
OUR WINTER LOSSES Apparently our two big butterfly bushes by the market have died back to the ground. I hope they recover. The enormous santolina in pot by the market turned up its toes. We lost almost half of our American elm to that heavy snowstorm. The tree people said “You want us to take down the elm now?” Nooooo!
VEHICLE SAFETYALERT! We never plan to have an accident (That’s why they’re called accidents.) but here is something we gardeners need to do. In a collision, any unsecured tool- trowel , pruning shears, hand fork- can become a dangerous projectile causing damage or injury. Please secure your tools in some way or put them in the trunk. I have a heavy blanket in the back of the minivan and my tools go well under that blanket. Do it!
THISTLE LESSON Perhaps you already know your thistles but we didn’t. We thought we had a stand of the dreaded invasive Canada thistles in our pasture, but on better observance I realized they are biennial. Looked in my book and found that we have bull thistles. They are still big, tall weeds, though actually very pretty in bloom, and very painful! Much easier to control and I always leave a few for the blooms.
UNDERSTANDING BIENNIALS It seems that many people don’t understand the life cycle of a biennial so here it is. We will start with the plant in bloom, almost always in summer. The mature plant will produce many seeds and then die. The seeds will germinate in late summer or fall making baby plants that are winter hardy. In spring the plants will grow to maturity, bloom, and the cycle starts over. So biennials take two years for their cycle but if a good self-sower, you will have them every year. That means if you buy a large foxglove in bloom you will lose it after blooming unless it produces an offshoot which occasionally happens. Now read this again to be sure it sank in!
It’s time to clean up your LAVENDERS if you haven’t done it yet. Get all the leaves and plant debris out of the middle and away from the base. This will breed fungi which are death to lavender. Don’t mulch under the plant. You may gently fluff off dead foliage and prune out dead branches. Done. Ready for bloom. We have ‘Phenomenal’ variety again. I didn’t have one left to plant so can’t give comprehensive report. Anyone?
We have been informed by many sources that PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE is a bad guy; an alien that is taking over our wetlands and fields, so I was amazed to see one growing in our sandy, dry cow pasture. I watched it bloom for a while then went with shovel to take it out. Imagine my surprise to see this non-native, which supposedly nothing eats, well inhabited by a number of good-looking caterpillars. Also to my surprise, I could not find them in my Peterson’s caterpillar book. For once, the internet did not disappoint. They are caterpillars of the HAPLOA CLYMENE moth, which besides being very attractive, does resemble the Star Trek badge. I wanted to include a picture, but didn’t find one to do justice in black and white. Look it up. Loosestrife stayed, at least for the season.
We have our usual selection of yummy sounding CORAL BELLS: Plum Pudding, Cherry Cola, Peach Flambe, Ginger Ale and so on, plus Fire Alarm with amazing bright red foliage.
The little BALMY BEE BALMS that were left survived in their pots which is always a good thing and makes them a desirable variety. Of course, nobody has them available this year so we will be dividing and conquering, we hope. I am not sure if they are patent protected which would mean they will just be called ‘short bee balm’ but you will know what they are.
We went to the POULTRY SHOW last October and came home with a few new chickens , two very expensive ($25 each) golden lace Wyandottes and a frizzle rooster. Frizzles show up every now and again. They can be any breed but do not breed true. You will love him. Very wild looking.
Since I listen to my hometown radio station so much (Have I mentioned it before? WJEJRadio.com) I get pulled into activities there. For the third year, two years with my friend Shirley, I went to the Washington County Art Museum’s Art in Bloom. As you may know from other places, this is where the museum picks works of art to be interpreted in flower arrangements. It is in March. Anybody else interested? We stay over one or two nights and try to get in as much trouble as possible.
GOOSE STUFF This could get really long. I will try to abbreviate. Last winter in the snow and very cold, an enormous red-tail hawk went right under our deck after the geese. Camille was ok but Knob was injured in defense. If you remember, they are 30 years old. It was so cold, Knob was going to go into shock, so in the house they came, where they stayed for, well, it seemed like a year but I guess it was about two weeks. By the way, the hawk moved on and got one of our $25 hens.
At a later date, we lost Camille and Knob was very upset, so we found him another woman. Even at his advanced age, they got it on, so to speak, and she decided to set. So she is setting on six eggs under the deck, which left him at loose ends again. So we got another goose, a tufted Roman, but he doesn’t like her much. I’m not sure where we go from here, but if the eggs hatch, I will have to take geese with me to the old ladies’ home!
At the end of the season, I usually plant some leftovers that I have been lusting after in my SHADE GARDEN back of the house. Then through the winter the tags either disintegrate or get carried away by the chickens. Then the game is on when spring arrives, trying to figure out what is coming up. I do buy plants sometimes you know. Sorry to say, the expensive Alaska fern apparently didn’t like the cold.
REMEMBER, MAY 15 LAST SAFE FROST DATE FOR YOUR SENSITIVE PLANTS!
First, as usual, my obligatory comments on the WEATHER. Our thoughts go out to those areas who have had some nasty and scary times this year. Our own summer, however, wasn’t so bad. Not too much heat and enough rain to keep stuff growing. The weeds especially have had a good time. I let a large evening primrose grow outside my fence with the lilacs. I believe it has finally topped out at about eight feet.
Some of the BOOKS have gone but there is still a pretty good selection. Don’t make me carry them in the house!
I do feel there is a bit of fiction included. White fringe tree (chionanthus virginicus) is a native small tree or large shrub. No possibility of being 12 feet in circumference. It’s not far away. We are going to track it down.
Coming soon, sorry for the short notice: the EGYPTIAN FESTIVAL at St. Anthony’s Coptic Christian Church on Hartford Road near Lenape High School. The dates are Friday evening Sept 8, all day Saturday Sept. 9, and Sunday afternoon Sept 10. We have been going every year since they started having it. The food is fabulous, there is neat stuff to buy, if you are interested they have e brief presentation on the Coptic Christian church, annnnd you can dress like an ancient Egyptian and have your picture taken. Bring the kids; they have amusements for them, too.
I discussed mile-a-minute vine before but here is brief re-cap. It is a fast-growing annual vine with L-shaped leaves and wicked little back-facing thorns. If it hasn’t got berries (watch out, they are pretty) just pull it out. As I said, it is an annual
. Oriental bittersweet is probably the worst invasive going right now in our area. I see large areas of it in the wooded parts of Medford and it will eventually kill the trees. If smothering doesn’t work it will wrap around the trunk and girdle the tree. It looks like an innocuous vine and doesn’t berry until quite large. Leaves are simple; slightly shiny light green. When you pull it up, you will find the roots are orange. Hard to kill. Keep fighting.
You cannot totally defeat Japanese honeysuckle. Battle it where necessary, enjoy the smell where you can tolerate it. It will also smother trees and shrubs but more slowly. You can often pull creeper out of trees easily, but honeysuckle wraps around too much.
Remember FALL IS FOR PLANTING!
I always feel a little like Cassandra of Greek mythology must have felt. In case you don’t know, she was a prophetess who was always right, but her curse was that no one would ever believe her. She probably got the curse from that randy bad boy Apollo, whose appetites we also have to thank for bay.
I keep telling you that a healthy perennial planted it the fall will grow a sturdy root system with no heat stress and come back bigger and better in spring. Ok, I tried again.
We have some new pictures on our web site. I especially like hummingbird clearwing moths and got a couple of good pictures. Check them out.
BUTTERFLY REPORT. Since we have lots of parsley, we also have lots of black swallowtails. We had five at once on the balmy bee balm in stock. I seem to be seeing more buckeyes this year. Or maybe just seeing the same ones often? Not so many tiger swallowtails. I have a nice picture of an eight-spotted forester, but Mark said my filthy fingernails ruined the picture. (I looked. He was right.)
We love the little skippers that light and then spread their wings like a miniature fighter jet. Silver-spotted skippers favor the butterfly bushes.
We don’t see many monarch butterflies but they obviously have been around because we have a fine crop of caterpillars in the milkweeds wherever they are growing.
On our way back and forth from WV, we couldn’t help but notice that the wide median strips are about 1/3 milkweed. (And half teasle)
Butterflies do love zinnias. I rate them the top butterfly annual.
I always let at least one large EVENING PRIMROSE grow amongst the market plants because the Japanese beetles seem to prefer it above all else. To my surprise and to the surprise of my nice customer, a female hummingbird spent a lot of time with the primrose. I guess they are the right shape bloom. Nevertheless, I won’t sell them.