Thursday, February 19, 2009

Color at Last

Just when I thought I couldn’t stand the browns and grays of winter any longer, a spot of color has appeared. Crocuses at last. Spring is on the way.

Friday, February 13, 2009

NJ Flower & Garden Show

This post is my personal opinion only. It in no way reflects the views of Rutgers Gardens or any of its staff. I am not a spokesperson for Rutgers Gardens.

I love my new camera. I’ve been eagerly anticipating trying it out in a large indoor setting to see how it performs. It didn’t disappoint. Using a slower shutter speed, I was able to capture the flower show in all of its glory. The first few photos came out blurry. Lacking a tripod, I had to make an extra effort at keeping my hands steady.

The deepening recession has hit the landscape industry hard. Not only were there fewer than usual display gardens at the NJ Flower & Garden Show this year, they were significantly smaller than in the past. Buying the materials, trucking them in and assembling and then disassembling the gardens are costs that most of us don’t consider when we attend these shows.

Limiting the size of the gardens also limits creativity in the designs. Usually there is at least one garden that stops me in my tracks and makes me say “WOW!”. Today all I saw were gardens that made me say “Eh!” and keep on walking.

A few individual elements made me pause in admiration. Like this whimsical fountain:

Or this more traditional one:

If it weren’t for the red bamboo, I probably wouldn’t have liked this ornament as much. To give you an idea of the small scale of the displays today, what you see in the photo is the entire garden.

This randomly placed gargoyle temporarily halted me. Is it me or is it horribly out of place?

The highlight of the show for me was this winning entry in the Garden Club of NJ competition:

Winner of a blue ribbon and the coveted Club Competition award, it was designed by five members of the East Brunswick Garden Club, two of whom are Master Gardeners that I have had the pleasure of working with on the Executive Committee of the Middlesex County Master Gardeners.

You can see all of my photos of the NJ Flower & Garden Show on Flickr.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Finally . . .

All of the mild weather has made me hungry for blossoms. I was thrilled to spot these snowdrops today. I thought it was an early sighting until I started checking prior years on my old blog. Last year, I had snowdrops in full bloom a week earlier.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Pinetree Garden Seeds is rapidly becoming my favorite seed catalog. Not only do they carry the flowers that I want to grow, but their prices can’t be beat! While most companies are pricing their seeds in the range $2 to $3, Pinetree Garden Seeds sells almost all of its seeds for less than $2. Their seed count and germination rate is excellent. I find myself ordering more and more from them every year.

New to my garden this year are:

Castor Beans (Ricinus communis) I first saw these at Rutgers Gardens. I didn’t fall in love with them until last year when I began to see them in different places and various settings. They really stand out among more ordinary flowers. I’m hoping that they will help camouflage the Ugly Green Fence.

Dahlias I’ve long resisted growing anything that I have to dig up every fall and replant every spring. I lost my resistance to dahlias last year at Chanticleer. After that trip, I seemingly saw them everywhere and when I found that I could grow them from seed rather than expensive tubers, I decided to give them a try.

Lemon Mint (Monarda citriodora) I fell in love with a picture in a catalog. Along with the claim that it “was a real eye catcher in our trials.” It’s also supposed to be an excellent bee plant so I’m sure that I can find room for it.

Chinese Foxglove (Rehmannia elata) I’ve actually grown this once before. Only one plant bloomed, but it was striking enough (and likes shade) that I want to try it again. It blooms all summer, something I lack in the border along the back of my house which is filled with spring flowers.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cabin Fever

The unseasonably warm weather is causing intense cabin fever. I can’t stand being cooped up in the house. I must be outside. It’s too early to do any gardening so I took my camera on a walk around Rutgers Gardens. It was a great day for photography. I came away with a record three Photos of the Day.

All of the ponds were still covered with ice. This, the largest, had a few areas of open water.

I didn’t realize that bamboo is evergreen. I love the contrast of the browns and grays with the green of the bamboo. It gives the appearance of a hidden garden.

The pond in the display gardens was full of acorn-like nuts, leaves and if you look carefully, you can see fish just below the ice.

The drabness of the winter landscape made details that I might ordinarily overlook really stand out. Like this bright orange fungus.

I’ve photographed this tree many, many times in the spring, summer and fall but it wasn’t until it was stripped bare that I saw how intertwined the branches were.

I ended my walk at what has become my favorite place in the gardens, the old greenhouse.

It’s boarded up now and the broken panes of glass have been removed but it still draws me back every time that I visit.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Burpee used to have a separate catalog for their heirlooms in addition to their regular catalog. And I used to place huge orders with them from both books. But the heirloom catalog got folded into their regular catalog and their seed counts went down as their prices went up and my annual orders have shrunk accordingly.

This year was no exception. I ordered my favorite nasturtium, cornflowers, Johnny-Jump-Ups and my new favorite marigolds.

Fanciful Stardust Moonlight Rose Mix Last year I ordered a collection of shade loving foliage plants for a container in front of my house. I was so pleased with the result that I am trying it again, but with a different collection of plants. This year I am trying impatiens, doubles and semidoubles in rose, pink and white.

Columbine, Lime Sorbet Select Seed may have reduced the number of varieties of columbine they carry, but other seed catalogs have increased them. I was fortunate to find the white columbine I wanted for my new white shade garden in the Burpee catalog of all places.

And in the category of “I didn’t know that you could grow that from seed!”, I ordered Kniphofia, Red Hot Poker Mix.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday Stroll

I took advantage of the warm weather and the fact that everyone would be inside watching the Super Bowl to visit the Van Wickle House, a Dutch farmhouse built in 1722. I’ve visited the house several times but each time it has been either too dark or too cold to photograph the formal garden attached to it. Today I was hoping to get some interesting contrasts between the disarray of a garden in winter with the structured formality of the brick walkway and picket fence. Alas, the recent storms left too much snow on the ground. I was unable to capture the textures that I was seeking.

The Photo of the Day will give you an idea of how much snow was on the ground:

As much as I like the colors in this picture, I think that it would work better in black and white.

Frustrated in my attempt at capturing a certain mood, I headed out on the wetland boardwalk to the Delaware & Raritan Canal that runs in front of the house. The end of the boardwalk was partially blocked by a tree that I initially thought had blown down during a storm. A closer examination of the base revealed the handiwork of beavers.

Beavers! In overbuilt central New Jersey. I would never have guessed they lived here.

The D&R Canal was dug, mainly by hand, between 1830 and 1834. By the Van Wickle House, it runs along side the Raritan River. Today the canal was covered by ice.

While just a few feet away, the river was ice-free, providing recreation to a flock of Canadian Geese.

If they aren’t the State Bird, they should be. They are everywhere.

You can see all of my pictures of the Van Wickle House and D&R Canal on Flickr.