Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finishing the Week in VT.

5-31-11 VERMONT: Hot continues, along with dry and humid. The switch from spring to summer was as fast as a channel change. Yesterday I weeded around the roses and blueberries and added peat moss mulch, fertilized perennial beds and shrubs and put up supports for peonies, delphinium and meadow rue.

The columbine that I limed on our last visit to VT, has done very well and looks better than all the others. Looking at the columbine, it struck me that they often grow next to the foundation of the new house which is poured concrete or calcium carbonate, with some magnesium carbonate, or lime. Anyway, I limed all the rest of the columbine.

Today I did more weeding, Judy did a ton of weeding yesterday, and then I cleaned up all the piles of cutting and weedings. I set up the tomato cages in the veggie garden and admired the first tomato flower. In the afternoon I re-built the culvert wall and shoveled sand and gravel back onto the road. The hot days seem to have been a boost to flowering and loads of new stuff has come out. NJ tomorrow.

New blooms: more azaleas, more viburnum, columbine, yellow lamium, false solomons seal, more geranium, ajuga, may apple, buttercups-yellow and white.

That mound is about five azaleas, varying from orange to salmon to pink shades. Besides Judy's cart, there are bleeding hearts, lamium, pulmonaria and lots of forget-me-not.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Now It's the Perennials Turn.

5-29-11 VERMONT: Everyday in the eighties says ‘summer’ to me. I’m glad that cold spring is over. Today was overcast and threatening, but stayed dry. In the late afternoon we went to an auction preview, and now Judy has her eye on a couple items to bid for tomorrow.

Before that excursion, I put several new perennials in beds mostly on the east side of the house. We lost all the hollyhocks, some dephinium, some foxglove and a number of other items. Violets seem to have taken over parts of several beds. Now I like violets—they’re pretty, come out early and are a welcome sight in violet, of course, and white. But they are invasive in a big way. I usually pull out the big clumps and, because I like them, put them in their own bed next to the road. That bed got significantly bigger yesterday and today. Pulling the violets and the winter kill left some big holes that I filled today.

I put four hollyhock in the bottom north terrace bed to replace the missing delphinium—Alcea rosea ‘Chater’s Double Red’, ‘Queenly Purple’, ‘Newport Pink’, and ‘Spring Celebrities Purple’ and one of them in the bed below the deck. I also put two lupin, Lupinus ‘Gallery Red’ and a tickseed coreopsis ‘Jethro Tull’ in that bed and also repaired the wall and trimmed some black leaves off of the peonies and sprayed them with fungicide.

In the beds east of the new house, I tried another Delphinium grandiflorum, ‘Butterfly Compacta’, three foxglove, Digitalis grandiflora [Ambigua] in a new location, three sea holly, Eryngium planum ‘Blue Hobbit’ not used before, and three threadleaf coreopsis, Coreopsis rosea ‘American Dream’.

Generally, I don’t try again and again to get something to grow in a spot that doesn’t work for plant X, but go with what is happy in that spot. I will try to find a new spot for something I like that hasn’t taken in spot Y.

New blooms: speedwell, celandine.

Brady the horse back for another summer. He's in his mid-twenties, old for a horse. The mask is to keep the bugs off his face. Carol, he sends his regards.

Friday, May 27, 2011

More Veggies.

5-27-11 VERMONT: Last night there were severe T-storms to the north of us, we could see lightening strikes almost continuously in the distance. There was flooding, at least one house fire from a lightening strike and trees down from high wind. Here we only got a bit of rain last night and more this evening totalling 0.25 inches, delivered with a bit of thunder.

Yesterday I mowed the high grass around the veggie garden, finished tacking down the plastic mulch, and put up the electric fence. The fence has three strands, the bottom for rodents, the middle for dogs and the top for horses and cows. We will probably have both a horse and three cows in the pasture this summer.

With the bed finally made, I started planting tomatoes yesterday and finished this morning and then put down corn seed and pumpkins and Swiss chard [free seeds]. I still have to do the tomato cages, but then I’m done with the veggies except for watering as needed and harvesting in August. I will have to thin the corn to one stalk per hill at some point, when it’s knee high.

The last two days have been in the eighties, and our painted turtle has started sun bathing in the afternoon. The apple trees are about at peak, and the one on the corner of the deck is stunning, as usual.

New blooms: sweet woodruff.

Patio and apple tree yesterday.

Apple trees today, almost at peak.

Evening sky trying to decide whether we get more rain or not.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Slave to Veggies.

5-25-11 VERMONT: I spent most of the day continuing to do the veggie garden prep. I decided to change location of corn and tomatoes this year. I use black plastic mulch to save water, warm the soil, keep weeds down, and protect any veggie lying on the ground. If it stays in place year after year, with the veggies in the same sites every year, it’s much easier to get started each spring, but plant pathogens in the soil see this as an invitation to a feast. I decided to pull up all the plastic and rotate everything 90° to change locations for corn and tomatoes.

Today I pulled out the thyme and oregano perennial plants out of the veggie bed and moved the oregano to the new herb bed and put some of the thyme there as well. The rest of the thyme, a lot of thyme, I scattered around the pasture in bare spots. Having started on the herb garden, I added more oregano, Origanum vulgare hirtum, rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, sweet basil, Ocinium basilicum, and tarragon, Tagetes lucida.

Having gotten everything out of the veggie field, I weeded, added three wheelbarrows of soil/compost, raked it all flat, laid and tested the soaker hose, fertilized and raked it in, and finally relaid the plastic mulch in the new pattern. Maybe I’ll finish it tomorrow.

Today, BTW, was beautiful, especially so because Judy arrived in mid-afternoon from NJ.

Equisetum. I discussed this Paleozoic survivor a few months ago [2-11-11], and promised a picture when it woke up.

Star Flower, Trientalis borealis, is a spring ephemeral, four inches tall that favors moist, shady, mossy areas. It's a primrose relative, but I don't see any resemblance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Soggy Vermont.

5-24-11 VERMONT: It was an uneventful trip up here—the best kind. It was a rainy trip, and a rainy, cold night. Today was summery—almost hot, humid, mostly cloudy with a gentle breeze. I walked around with Sam and Chloe this morning before errands and am overwhelmed with the work that needs to be done. Fortunately, only the veggies and herbs are semi-urgent. Everything else will get done when it gets done.

I went to Longacre’s this morning and got fertilizer, peat moss and a bunch of perennials to replace those lost to winter kill. In the afternoon I started uncovering the veggie garden, removing the black plastic mulch and the soaker hose. That doesn’t sound like much, but the pasture grasses and weeds had grown into the plastic so much that it was hard to tear it out, but the intrepid gardener persevered.

I moved some thyme from the veggie garden, huge rambling plants that I had started with one little plant several years ago. Some I put in the new herb garden and some in sunny bare spots in the pasture. The late afternoon rain, we can’t go for 24 hours without some rain, drove us inside for dinner.

In bloom: apple, azalea, honeysuckle, lilac, blueberry, mohican viburnum, bleeding hearts, forget-me-not, mertensia, red and white trillium, pink, purple and yellow lamium, pulmonaria, viola, lily-of-the-valley, vinca, creeping phlox, alkanet, epimedium, baneberry, bergenia, geranium, spurge, hellebore, wild ginger, jack-in-the-pulpit, bunch berry, and in the pasture: dandelion, wild strawberry, foam flower.

Master of all he surveys, for a few seconds.

You can't be too rich, too thin, or have too many dandelions.

White Trillium, Red Trillium, also called Wake Robin.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The World Goes On.

5-22-11 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday was warm and sunny, except for the evening T-storm, and a pleasant change from the rain, but today is overcast, cold, foggy and drizzly. We got no significant additional accumulation with those last rains. At least the plants seem happy.

Yesterday we saw Maggie in the Heights Players production of “Bye Bye Birdie”. It was an excellent staging, in the round, with minimal sets and props and well worth the $20 ticket. We had a nice dinner at Colonie on Atlantic Ave a few blocks from the theater.

Since I’m writing this and, perhaps, someone will be reading it, the world, once again, didn’t end or whatever it was that was predicted. I hope not too many are disappointed. Somehow, I’m sure somebody made a bundle out of it all, stealing from the gullible.

Vermont tomorrow.

Rose is a tease, lifting one veil at a time.

Friday, May 20, 2011


5-20-11 SHORT HILLS: I felt the need to get in a last post before the end of the world at 6 PM tomorrow. Do you suppose that is 6 PM eastern standard time or daylight saving time or Greenwich Mean Time? Well, if it should come to pass that we’re still here, still coping and struggling, after tomorrow, come back for post-apocolypse analysis. As best as I can understand it, the date of 5-21-11 is exactly 7000 years since Noah’s flood. I’m almost ready to start on my own ark.

We have had another 0.5 inches of rain to bring our total for the week to 4.6 inches. Now, I know many places can get that much rain in an afternoon, but it’s a wet week here. Our lawn people came by this afternoon and said that it was too wet and muddy to mow.

Yesterday we saw an excellent production of “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry at the Packer Middle School in Brooklyn Heights. Granddaughter Lucy was the prince and performed marvelously. Tomorrow we see her sister, Maggie, in a community theater production of “Bye Bye Birdie”.

New blooms: first rose, Asian lilac, black chokeberry.

Black Chokeberry. The white flowers yield black berries, and the leaves turn deep orange in autumn.

Rhododendron-not too showy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


5-18-11 SHORT HILLS: It just keeps on raining. This morning there was 1.55 inches in the gauge when I was outside during a lull in the torrent. After that it got heavier, and, by this evening, there was another 1.60 inches. Running total = 4.10 since Saturday. Guess what it’s still doing tonight? The driveway drain was clogged today, one day after I cleaned out the debris, which I did again. The sump pump is running every few minutes. The ground is soggy, soggy, soggy. Every low spot in the yard has a puddle. Two more days of the same predicted.

The lush grass attracted a young stag this evening.

New blooms: star-of-Bethlehem.

Visitor who dropped by after dinner. Probably a yearling stag turned loose by mom who has a new fawn to take care of. Antlers are coming in.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Rain.

5-16-11 SHORT HILLS: Sorry about the silent period, dear reader, I guess we were busy. Judy’s party for her friend Carolyn who is retiring from St. Huberts Animal Shelter was yesterday and apparently a success in spite of the rain that kept most everyone indoors. Our San Diego weather spell ended Friday, and we are back in Seattle. It has been cold and raining for three days with 0.95 inches so far. There has been occasional thunder.

I trimmed paths of scraggly ivy growth and weeded some beds. I found more dog holes to fill from the endless pile of compost at the town dump. I added a lupin to the bed by the holly tree and a couple columbine, Aquilgea, to the bed by the sunroom door.

New blooms: pink rhododendron.

Red Twig Dogwood. The flowers do not look much like dogwood trees, but that four petal pattern is present. The twigs are green in growing season. I showed this bush in winter a few months ago when the twigs were red.

Red Bud Trees. The one on the left has dark red foliage coming out around the pink flowers, and the one on the right, in the sun, green leaves.

Here's our 'freedom lawn', with anything that can grow under three inches, including some grass. No fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, no weeding, no raking. It gets water and lime in the spring. It doesn't look bad considering heavy shade, tree roots and four active dogs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


5-11-11 SHORT HILLS: We did Mother’s Day in Sea Cliff on Long Island with Alison’s and Valerie’s families, minus Steve and Anna, both away. We survived the LIE and Cross Bronx both going and coming home.

Many chores have been attended to: watering, fertilizing, pruning, filling a few more animal holes, dog and woodchuck, gate repair, transplanting a few more volunteers, and more.

It’s about peak azalea season and the colors are as dramatic as always. Maybe May is our best month—not too hot, leaves are out, best of the flowers and everything looks fresh and eager and vigorous.

New blooms: deutzia, blueberry, pink lamium, red twig dogwood, mulberry.

Azalea have neon vivid color.

More Azalea.

And More.

Azalea in white.

Azalea cousin, Rhododendron.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Mom's Day Eve.

5-7-11 SHORT HILLS: We have had a pair of sunny, cool and breezy days. Yesterday I re-potted the tomatoes in larger cups, mostly one to a cup. I have six each of four varieties at this point and hoping for about four of each for the garden at the end of the month. They have been spending days outside in the sun and seem to enjoy it.

Today was a busy one. I watered all the new plantings, transplanted some feral day lilies, transplanted some star-of-Bethlehem volunteers that were growing in the mowed parts of the yard. [That part which is referred to as lawn in other yards.] I pruned a bit, did the May fertilizer applications, and started the sprinkler system and checked out all the zones. A couple sprinkler heads needed cleaning.

New blooms: more viburnums, including siebold, Korean spice and double file, more azalea, wild strawberry, May apple, Solomon seal, false Solomon seal, first rhododendron, leucothoe.

Wood Hyacinth comes in pink, blue and white and is reliably perennial.

Leucothoe. The flowers look like andromeda or lily-of-the-valley. The hardest part is pronouncing it. Try this: lu-KO-thway.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Fence Mending.

5-5-11 SHORT HILLS: Spring continues to hurry on her way like a lady on a mission. It rained all day yesterday, giving us another 0.5 inches of precip along with cool temps and lots of wind. There was less wind today, but plenty of sun even if it didn’t get very warm.

Yesterday and the previous day I spent painting the newly re-built benches, first the bottoms and then the tops, green, of course. They turned out pretty well and are now back in the yard.

Today I had a bunch of split-rail fence rails delivered and put up a half-dozen that needed replacement. Those fresh new rails are heavy. After a few years of weather, they loose so much mass, or maybe water, that they are so much lighter. The rails have thin ends so they can fit in the holes in the posts along with the next rail over, but that thinness is what causes a rail to break off at the post and end up six inches too short and then need replacement. Problem solvers, anyone?

New blooms: wood hyacinth.

Red Bud. The flowers are set right on the branch bark in clusters.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Back to Spring.

5-2-11 SHORT HILLS: We had an easy trip back to NJ today and back to Spring. Almost everything, except rose-of-sharon, is in leaf or opening buds. The yard is finally drying out even though there was another 0.5 inches of rain. Some grass is actually growing here.

New blooms: apple, beech, red bud, lilac, Carolina allspice, viburnum, barberry, burning bush, azalea, lamium.

Claytonia. This spring ephemeral, standing two inches tall, is usually white with a couple faint reddish lines on each petal. This one is much redder-possibly a double or triple dose of a color gene.

Flowering Apple with robin's nest.

Dogwood. Ever notice how the inner pair of sepals, not petals in this case, are longer than the outer pair?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May Day.

5-1-11 VERMONT: There was still small piles of snow this morning, but none remains tonight. I finished most of the stuff I had to do on this short visit, and the gardens are set for a few weeks. I did repairs around the deck, cleared the culvert and re-built the culvert wall that the snow plows always knock down, fertilized with Holly-Tone, changed water filters and a bunch of small jobs I can’t remember. I didn’t get to the split rail fence repair or veggie bed prep.

Today was beautiful, cloudless, almost warm with a mild breeze. The pond remains very clear with a lot of the bottom visible. I saw no crayfish, but they’re not early risers. The small pond above the big pond is full of tadpoles all about one quarter inch long, the other ponds have only frog egg clusters.

I remember from our Alaska trip that columbine are supposed to like alkaline soil, because we saw them growing around a carbonate deposit. I have never limed them, but today I did pick out a bed near the new mud room and hit all the columbine with lime to see if they do any better than those in other beds. NJ tomorrow.

New blooms: forsythia, bloodroot.