Mid- June 2017
Such a long list I have this time! Where to begin? I suppose the logical place would be with SEEDS. Yes, last week I planted many different seeds. Call me crazy, but when there are lots of tomatoes, these basils will be ready.
I am sorry, but I probably can’t say the same thing for some of the other plants. Apparently I have a critter (mouse) that is sneaking past the eighth inch hardware cloth and eating seeds. So there will probably be no borage, milk thistle and limited red malabar spinach. Tiny seeds are not a target.
I have QUEEN RED LIME ZINNIAS coming on! I’m so excited! These are the dahlia type tall zinnias that I think are gorgeous and Andy thinks are weird. I hadn’t been able to get the seeds the last two years, but this year Johnny’s had them. I may even have enough to share. No promises.
Have you seen our DRIFT ROSES outside the fence? After two years of struggle and a few losses, they are really pretty. They don’t get tall like Knockouts and, unlike Knockouts, they are fragrant. I mean enough that you can smell them several feet away.
CHICKENS DON’T EAT EARTHWORMS. They eat other kinds of bugs and worms but will step right on an earthworm and show no interest.
We have TOO MANY DEER! They are eating too many things they shouldn’t, in the market, around the market and just about everywhere else on the property. If there is one plant to eat in the middle of inedible plants, they will find it. A further somewhat surprising fact: DEER DON’T EAT GRASS. It is a fiction. They eat hostas, comfrey, phlox, rose of Sharon, evening primrose, violets, many different trees. This year they are eating trumpet vine and goldenrod which is not a bad thing but they have begun tasting my beebalm. So don’t picture them grazing peacefully in a field. It doesn’t happen. I have gone on the offensive with my radio set on WRTI, the all night jazz station. You probably know, they are classical daytime, jazz at night. I am, sadly, not a big jazz fan but the combination of instrumental, vocal and talk may not appeal to my antlered friends. I have had some success putting coffee grounds around a hosta. It seems to have stunted the hosta though. Mothers beware of too much coffee for children. Haha.
By the way, is RED-VEINED SORREL edible? Deer give it a resounding “Yes!” They nibbled the tops off a whole flat. It will re-grow but still annoying.
CHALLENGE We are very much interested in TREES. There used to be an official ‘biggest tree list’ for New Jersey, but it doesn’t seem to exist any more. Alice Paul Institute on Hooton Road in Mt. Laurel has the largest copper beech I have ever seen and a very impressive American elm. Our very own American beech (Yes, there is a difference.), which we planted about 25 years ago, is going to have beechnuts for the first time this year. Very exciting! Sunnyside Farm, also on Hooton Road, has an enormous oak and some other beauties.
Now here is the challenge. We have a huge buttonwood (sycamore) in our pasture. I think it’s a winner but I am ready to be proven wrong.. At four feet from ground it has a circumference of twelve feet. Anybody have or know of a bigger one?
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.
THANK YOU WALL STREET JOURNAL. I love my WSJ and here is one of the reasons. In April there was an article ‘Shrink Your Shrubs’ featuring four new small cultivars: ‘Pugster’ butterfly bush (2 feet), ‘Wee White’ pg hydrangea (30 inches), ‘Peach Sorbet’ blueberries (2 feet), and ‘BALMY’ BEEBALM (12 inches). We now have Balmy in two colors, rose and lilac. Come and get ‘em.
BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. Thanks to the extensive library of our dear departed friend Lorna, we now have quite a number of gardening type books looking for new homes. I also purged some of my own. You may do the same. You also may take a book and bring it back if you like. There is some really good stuff!
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? (continued quest) I like to know who plants are named for.
“Mary Gregory’ stokesia could be named for a 20th century movie/TV star or a 19th century artist in glass. I vote for the artist. Her pieces are quite beautiful and quite pricey. A customer asked me,”Is that the Mary Gregory?” I still can’t answer that since I don’t know which one is the Mary Gregory.
“Franz Schubert’ phlox obviously named for the composer but I don’t know why. Just a fan, I guess.
‘Jacob Kline’ bee balm is named for its originator. I can’t seem to find out if he developed it himself or found it wild by the roadside in Georgia. It is beautiful, bright red and four feet tall. Two left in stock.
We have in stock the largest HENS AND CHICKS (sempervivum) I have ever seen! The main plant (the hen) is at least six inches across surrounded by small rosettes (the chicks). Growing hint: Don’t over-water. I water mine about every third time I do everything else and only lightly even then.
NEW THYME Wait till you see ‘Foxley’ thyme. This one has it all! Larger than usual variegated green and white leaves. Much showier than ‘Hi-ho Silver’ And it is culinary!
COMMERCIALS. COMMERCIALS. COMMERCIALS.
Both kinds of Amsonia available. Marvelous perennial. Pale blue stars in spring. Gold fall
color. Sun. Clumping. 3 feet tops.
Five kinds of Echinacea including Tikki Torch for which you will need your mortgage.
Butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa) in bloom
Lily of the valley for a jump on next spring
Russian comfrey thanks to my son’s clay soil. More on this next.
Balloon flowers just starting to balloom.
Special on coreopsis verticillata ‘Cruzin Electric Ave’ Half price if you mention it.
Many different coral bells including an enormous ‘Caramel”
Potting up some of my favorite ‘invasives’- Perilla, Sweet Annie, variegated vinca vine
Also potting up my creeping Mother of thyme. Culinary and about two inches
I don’t know if my son MARK in WV has fabulous soil or a terrific green thumb or both. Everything he plants in his yard gets half again as big as normal and multiplies like crazy. Also, he has two decent size dogs (Bruce and Clark) who play in the yard and somehow never manage to break off, dig up or otherwise damage his plantings. He has a balloon flower that looks like a small shrub, a strawberry foxglove with about six bloom stalks and his “Silver King’ artemisia doesn’t even look like the same plant I have popping up everywhere. Now Mark has discovered rooting hormone and is turning out new plants faster than he has room to plant. A stream where Mark walks the dogs has a large area of proper SPEARMINT. It is two feet tall and pretty much growing right in the water. He has pulled it out and planted it by his fence where, of course, it is flourishing.
My friends at WJEJ radio station in my home town may think ill of me if I don’t remind you about streaming WJEJRadio.com. Check out the Phone Party at 11 AM Monday to Friday or just listen to the music and the great DJ’s..
If any of you bought ‘Starfire’ phlox (George?) I must apologize because it is not Starfire. I had my doubts because the foliage had no red color. As soon as it bloomed I knew for sure. Definitely not cherry red. I’m not sure what to do. Your money back if you like but that doesn’t fix your color scheme.
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 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.
I hear you asking, “Can I cook with lavender? Yes, you can. Flavor is a little like rosemary without the pineyness. Generally use dried flowers.
Lavender is strong; don't use too much or your dish will taste like Aunt Sally's sachet.
Add lavender flowers when making:
Bicuits or bread sticks Fruit cup
Earl Grey tea or any tea Marinade for chicken
Lavender is frequently a part of herbs d'Provence.
Brief BIRD REPORT.( Skip this if you don’t like birds.) We have too many imitators. Every time I think we have a new bird, it is either the blue jays, the starlings or the Carolina wren who has amazing volume for his size.
We may be taking a few Sundays this Summer. You know the drill if we are not here.
Come see us,
Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste
Here we are, another year, another spring? Newsletters always start with my obligatory observances on the weather. What a weird spring! That’s it. What else is there to say?
My hopefully over-wintering PLANTS IN THE BASEMENT seem to have done better than usual. All four lemon verbenas came back and the hip-hop euphorbia is growing fast and blooming. Perhaps it was the lack of extended cold this winter or perhaps it was the bubble-wrap on the windows. You do know about bubble-wrap, don’t you? In case you don’t, here is the deal. If you have windows you don’t use for gazing, dampen glass slightly, apply bubble-wrap. It will cling indefinitely and cut down cold air significantly.
ROAD TRIP! My friend Shirley and I made the trip to my hometown in March to see the ‘Art in Bloom’ exhibit at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. Members of various garden clubs are assigned art works to be interpreted in flowers. It is a wonderful event and we thoroughly enjoyed both admiring and criticizing the arrangements! If you go to the Mount Laurel Garden Club web site, you can see Shirley’s pictures. She posted them all, the ones we loved and the ones we didn’t. Frankly I thought the Museum people were a little mean in some of the works they chose. By the way, this exhibit is not judged.
You all probably know by now my weakness for CORAL BELLS (heuchera). We have a new one! It is named Ginger Ale and is just the color you would expect it to be, with somewhat frillier leaves. This is another food related coral bell variety to go with Peach Flambe, Blackberry Ice, Plum Pudding, Caramel, Cherry Cola and so on.
Does anyone else remember singing this round?
White coral bells upon a slender stalk;
Lilies of the valley deck my garden walk;
Oh, how I wish that I could hear them ring!
That would only happen when the fairies sing.
Ask me, I will sing it for you. But wait! I checked youtube and apparently lots of people remember ‘White Coral Bells’ and are ready, willing and able to sing it for you. Some more ably and tunefully than others. Funny, my computer thinks it should be “choral bells”. I get that squiggly green line.
Can it be that I only did TWO newsletters last year? Oh yeah, that’s right, I was wounded and kinda wimped out. We did the two state fairs, NJ and WV, same as always, except they are never the same as always. Two days at the NJ State Fair just isn’t enough. We like to see everything and eat everything and buy cool stuff from our Nepalese friends.
I am up to my eyeballs in CATMINT! Three varieties, actually four if you count the one ‘Cat’s Meow’ from last year. In case you have forgotten, catmint is an outstanding perennial, considered a fragrance herb, with attractive gray-green foliage and long-lasting, reblooming clusters of flowers in various shades of lavender. We have ‘Six Hills Giant’ (up to 3 Feet); a new shorter variety with brighter blue blooms called ‘Purrsian Blue’ and the standard variety ‘Walker’s Low’. You will love them all! I finally found out why ‘Walker’s Low’ is so named. It has nothing to do with the height of the plant. A couple in Ireland (the Walkers) were plant breeders. They had three levels of garden in the English manner: high, middle and low. The catmint came from, you guessed it, the low garden. Thus the name, ’Walker’s Low’. Most cats do not care for catmint, unlike its cousin, catnip.
Perhaps you wish to grow a larger quantity of CHAMOMILE for tea. The following is an excerpt from one of the many hand-outs I seem to generate. Yes, it is an annual. It may, however, self-sow if you let some seeds drop. The little plants may appear in the fall and are, oddly, winter hardy.
GERMAN CHAMOMILE: Annual; full sun. One happy plant will produce many blooms from which tea is made. Foliage has no fragrance. Grow from seed or purchase plant. THIS SEED MUST HAVE LIGHT TO GERMINATE. Not all seed companies have correct info on packets. Scatter seed on surface and gently press in. DO NOT COVER. Harvest flowers when petals begin to turn down slightly. May be used fresh, actually has more flavor that way. If you wish to dry blooms, spread them on a screen. Use six to eight blooms for a cup of tea. Relaxing, good aid to sleep. Safe even for children but may not agree with allergy sufferers.
COMMERCIAL. COMMERCIAL. COMMERCIAL. COMMERCIAL
Here are some of the lovely things you may like:
Larger Salem and Arp rosemarys than we usually have this early.
‘Phenomenal’ lavender. Supposed to be re-blooming. Sold so fast last year I didn’t get to plant one myself.
“Purple Smoke’ false indigo (baptisia australis) and regular native blue false indigo. I have not yet learned why one of our native plants has the botanical name australis.
‘Nicky’ tall phlox. Beautiful color. Have not had for several years.
Both kinds of Amsonia. Both with blue star flowers and that great gold fall color.
‘Tikki Torch’ Echinacea. Bring your mortgage.
‘Blue Stocking’ bee balm. Not really blue but close as you will get in bee balm.
Enormous Lemon Grass
Impressive Hens and Chicks (sempervivum) with only a few bites taken out. Aaaa!
Sorry, but by the time you get this newsletter, the Garden Club plant sale will already have happened. For whatever reason, the Library book sale and the plant sale are both a week earlier this year.
I am attempting to work with the DEER that pass by the market every night. They tend to taste plants on the far side of the display so I try to arrange accordingly. I do make the occasional big “Oops” though. Such as two days ago. “Oops,” I guess they like wood asters. Not to worry, they will regrow quickly.
I was again reminded that cats like VALERIAN ROOT. I spoke this week at the Greater Woodbury Garden Club. In showing them a valerian plant, I ripped off some root and passed it around for them to smell. When I got home, I put it on the floor and while all the cats showed interest, Licorice went really silly over it. Yes, we have marvelous second year valerians, which will bloom beautifully this year. Valerian is the only plant I know that has completely different foliage first and second years. Nervous? Chew on the roots. (Or buy capsules)
Our ANIMALS are diminishing. We lost the last of our beautiful white geese this spring. They seem to be more fragile than other breeds. We are in the market for more geese since our remaining two are 29 years old. Anyone? We also lost our Molly cow, who was close to the oldest cow in the world. That leaves us with Della, who is also no spring chicken. I told Andy we must check the fence in case someone offers us some kind of wonderful animal! Della knows where the fence line is and doesn’t cross it.
Speaking of CHICKENS, the new girls are getting in gear and I am getting up to 7 or 8 eggs a day. I may be able to handle one more egg customer. First come…
We do, however, have two lovely new girl GUINEA PIGS, Machu and Picchu, (I love the names, they came already named) from Animal Welfare in Voorhees..
Seems like a lot of my friends are down-sizing and purging their stuff. Bah! If I can follow in my mother’s footsteps I have 25 or so years yet. We are still planting trees and shrubs and collecting stuff.
Our Chinese WISTERIAS are going to be fabulous this year. Last year they got frozen first time ever and we had no blooms. Of course the one in front has no blooms as usual. The books will tell you, sometimes they never bloom.
#1.How about the ridiculous sales tax reduction? 6.85 percent indeed! Haha. How many people want their penny? If you spend $1000.00 you save a buck and a half, right?
#2. I read in the Wall Street Journal that bar soap is going out of style in favor of liquid soap. Here’s the situation as I see it. Bar soap comes in a paper or cardboard wrapper. Liquid soap comes in a plastic bottle. Aren’t we making enough plastic trash with all the bottled water? Don’t get me started.
REMEMBER! LAST SAFE FROST DATE IS MAY 15! CAREFUL WITH ANNUALS.
Andy has divided his OX-TONGUE houseplants and a few will be available for you. They are quite unusual. Although they look somewhat like aloes, they are in the gasteria family. They need bright light but no direct summer sun. They get really neat blooms.
BIRD REPORT: We have several chipping sparrows this year. They are tiny, not much bigger than chickadees. If we didn’t feed the birds we might have some extra money!
Come see us. Ring the newly painted bell in the newly painted bell stand. What a job! Scraping, sanding, priming, painting, crawling around on the ground. Worth it, I think.
Gloria & Andy
The Butterfly Garden
Here, by this crumbling wall
We'll spread the feast, then watch what guests it brings.
Earth-rooted flowers to flowers of heaven shall call,
And all the gorgeous air shall wink with wings.