Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pond Story.

6-28-12 VERMONT: The rain stopped today, leaving us with another 0.75 inches. The sun came out this morning, and I immediately recognized it from memory. It was actually warm this afternoon.

After a mercy mission to rescue a stranded motorist who’s clutch burnt out, I started on all the weeding and cleared a few beds, dead-headed the peonies and pruned a few small trees.

Our pond is small but close to the house and attractively set and planted. However, it has been getting browner and browner over the years. There was a lot of algae this spring, now gone, but murkiness remains. It’s actually not much different from the last few years, but, as I mentioned in the 6-10-12 post, we had a consultation and testing done. The tests were negative for anything harmful, as attested to by the abundant happy, pond critters. Tim Matson, the pond guru, did find the dissolved oxygen to be low which retards the degradation of organic material and contributes to the color. Dissolved tannins from pine needles and leaves also cause browning.

At Tim’s suggestion, we contacted Brian Furze of Aqua Dynamics Solutions. This company makes AquaPucks which act to increase oxygen levels, kill algae, aid in organic decomposition, and flocculate particulate matter. All without harming plants and animals. [Their website describes it all.] I put four pucks in a few days ago.

New blooms: rosebay rhododendron, summer sweet.

The water is the color of black coffee.

The tape measure blurs at six feet, at a foot and a half depth.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flowers and Rain.

6-26-12 VERMONT: It’s cold and clammy here, everyone is wearing sweaters, and we might have a fire tonight. When we arrived there was 2.4 inches of rain in the gauge, and since I emptied it, it has been raining.

I got outside yesterday during periods of drizzle to do a bit of work. I cleared the culvert, only to have it refill with the next downfall. I put up supports for a lot of drooping plants, and did some weeding and pruning. There’s another week’s worth of weeding and pruning waiting for me.

New blooms: native daylily, baptisia, filipendula, campanula, rogersia, salvia, Russian sage, feverfew, ground sedum, first hosta, vetch, indian paintbrush, pyrola.

This sweet wildflower grows in the woods. The whole plant is below.

Here's the whole plant with the flower stalk and leaves close to the ground. Give up? It's called roundleaf pyrola.

And what's prettier than today's daylilies.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Metro Wrap-Up.

6-24-12 VERMONT: We came up today and were joined by Val, Maggie and Lucy, who are here to drop Lucy off for camp. Judy and I had a busy weekend. Friday we were in Sea Cliff, Long Island for Lily’s HS graduation. Trying to get out on LI on a summer Friday is a disaster because of all the beach traffic. We left for the evening ceremony at 11:30 AM, and it still took us almost two hours.

That afternoon, I was running errands with Alison, for the graduation party, when the heat wave ended with several crashes and bangs and a load of rain—we got 0.5 inches in NJ. Because of the threat of rain the graduation had been moved inside to a packed, hot gym, but it was great, as was dinner and the party. Congrats to Lily and the Empty-Nesters.

Saturday we went to friend Bette’s birthday party, no numbers will be given. It was at an old, grassy, NJ institution that will remain nameless. The setting is beautiful, and the food was plentiful and good. The birthday girl seemed quite pleased. We were delighted to be there.

The update on the garden status here will be in the next post.  

Peonies in red.

Roses climbing the fence.

First water lily.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hot Times in the City.

6-21-12 SHORT HILLS: This is the second day of a heat wave with temps near 100° in the afternoon. Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, so the days now begin to get shorter as the sun works its way back to the Equator.

Yesterday we were in the city to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibit at Discovery—Times Square. These life-size clay soldiers, an army of thousands, guarded the huge burial tomb of the first emperor of China. There are enough figures to give one an idea of the detail and scope of the burial city. The supporting text and videos give plenty of back round info and provide a fairly complete picture of the story.

We met Lynn and Bill for dinner at a Thai place, and then we all saw ‘Clybourne Park’ at the Walter Kerr Theatre. It has enjoyed rave reviews and theatrical awards, but we were all a bit disappointed. There are two acts, the first is set in the fifties and the second in the present. The cast, direction, sets, costumes and dialogue are all excellent, but the plot falls short, the subplot is contrived and superfluous. It works as a pair of vignettes, but seems forced and hasn’t got a lot of laughs. The ensemble does what it can with the vehicle. It doesn’t compare to the Aquila Theatre’s ‘Macbeth’ and costs ten times as much.

Honey Bees are still out there and busy working.
Rosebay Rhododendron have pink buds, but lose the color in the open flower except for the stigma, in the center of the flower.
Roses continue to thrill.

Terra Cotta Cavalry.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dogs, Hot Dogs and Reading.

6-19-12 SHORT HILLS: Today was the last visit to Lincoln School for Judy and the dogs, who are reading instructors. I came along because there was a picnic, in the classroom, provided by an amazing teacher, Joanne Catalano. She supervised hot dogs, chips, sodas and cake for the kids and the visiting dogs teams, two other teams as well as us. My being there meant that both Nick and Gus both could attend because the ratio of dogs to handlers must be 1:1. After the lunch, lots of the kids read to the dogs and feed them treats.

New blooms: Rosebay Rhododendron.
Judy at work.
Lincoln Second Grade and Ms. Catalano in the back.
More readers.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dinosaurs and Sky Walkers.

6-17-12 SHORT HILLS: Gorgeous weekend, we hosted granddaughter Lucy while her Mom and Dad were out of town. Saturday we discovered Mesozoic critters living in the Jersey meadowlands, almost within the shadow of the Empire State Building. Dinosaurs were moving and growling, and I had thought they were as dead as the mobsters there.

Today we, Lucy and I, tried the Tree Tops Adventure Course at Turtle Back Zoo. Judy kept her feet firmly planted while Lucy and I walked on high wires and swaying logs high in the sky. It’s definitely an adventure, I even scraped a finger on the zip line.

Tree Tops Adventure.
Petting Zoo.
Did you hear footsteps?

Lucy in the Sky.
Have you seen this one at your feeder?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Siebold Snipped.

6-14-12 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday I transplanted three bleeding hearts that I had brought down from VT. They look a little beat up, but will probably be fine. I have had some successful bleeding hearts here, but they haven’t made any seed pods. In VT they make thousands of seeds and spread readily, especially in shady areas. I’d rather have them self-spreading than weeds which are only too happy to volunteer.

Today I did an extensive pruning of a Siebold viburnum. They grow and spread readily to the point that they can be considered invasive, but are an attractive shrub with mounds of white flowers in the spring. They can easily get to twenty and even thirty feet tall, usually with mutiple trunks. One odd feature is the odor of a crushed leaf—burning rubber. Anyway, one was growing over and hanging over a magnolia, an apple and a redbud. I took that trunk down to about five feet, last year I had done the same to the other trunk. I like them, they’re great for screening, but need controlling. There are about twenty, one-foot-tall volunteers under the one I pruned, and I will probably weed-whack most of them. All the prunings made a carload for the dump.

New blooms: variegated Jacobs ladder.
Cabbage White Butterfly, male.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rainy Day.

6-12-12 SHORT HILLS: Before we left VT yesterday morning, there were two new blooms—peony and foxglove. That peony was one that I have been spraying for that black leaf fungus or mold, spraying seems to be doing it.

In NJ things looked a bit dry, but timely rain has solved the issue. I was looking around after we got back and flushed a deer in the yard. All the hosta leaves had been eaten, and new growth on several shrubs was gone.

I had a comment from ‘Delphi77’ who wanted to know what kind of camera I use, as her/his profile has no contact info, I’ll list it here. I have used SLR cameras in the past, but now use a Canon PowerShot SX230 HS. It has a good zoom, 14x, and macro feature for the flowers and, most importantly, fits in a pocket, with a little squeeze. If your camera isn’t in your pocket, you don’t get the shot.

New blooms: daylily.
 Daylily, native, always a treat to see them declare the beginning of summer.
 Foxglove from VT.
Lynn, here's Judy's table happily nestled in its new home.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Feels Like Summer.

6-10-12 VERMONT: Today was definitely summery. I did more weeding and pruning yesterday and today. We had a consult with Tim Matson, author of Earth Ponds, The Countryman Press, Woodstock, VT, 2012, about our pond’s lack of clarity. The answer remains murky, like the pond, but testing is to be done and remedies are available. Tim, it turns out, is a neighbor. Anyway, NJ tomorrow.

New blooms: stephanandra and spider wort [forgot to mention last post], valerian.

Contented Cows.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Soggy Vermont.

6-8-12 VERMONT: We arrived yesterday midst intense, tropical showers. There’s been a lot of rain—3.25 inches worth in the last nine days. The area above the pond has standing water and isn’t mowable.

The pond is about the same, moderately murky, but no floating algae clumps. I saw two turtles yesterday, as well as frogs, fish and crawfish.

It's definitely cool at night, we had a fire last evening. Other than pull a few weeds yesterday, all I did was repair the canine invisible fence. We had dinner in town with Chris and Bob.

New blooms: weigela, Wentworth viburnum, Asian lilac, white spirea, roses, Solomons seal, meadow rue, thyme.
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail feeding on lilac.
Early hybrid daylily.
Wentworth Viburnum has flowers similar to Doublefile Viburnum. The small, inner flowers are the ones that need fertilization, and the large, outer flowers have a bigger display to attract the pollinators.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


6-5-12 SHORT HILLS: There was another 0.4 inches of rain yesterday, and today is dark, damp and cool with more rain on the way. I haven’t had to do much lately, just some odds and ends.

Beautyberry [Callicarpa japonica] is a deciduous shrub that gets to six feet tall and wide. Its most striking feature is the berries that are a neon-violet color, round, small and grow in clusters in the fall. Birds will eat them, and they might repel mosquitoes. The flowers are inconspicuous and are appearing now. They are tiny, maybe a quarter inch across.

New blooms: hydrangea, beautyberry.

 Beautyberry, flowers and buds, with pollinator.

Beautyberry. These flowers are no more than one-quarter inch in diameter. That purple color is the same color the berries show.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Garden Titration.

6-2-12 SHORT HILLS: It’s back to spring weather, in the seventies, after a storm last night that dumped 0.7 inches of rain and blew a bunch of dead branches out of the trees. All the indoor plants have escaped to the yard for summer vacation.

Today I did an hours worth of pruning and weeding, sprayed the mildew again, and re-fed a half-dozen shrubs that look tired with yellowish leaves. The process reminds me of titration in Chemistry Class. 

That lab procedure consists of adding known amounts of acid or alkali to a solution to neutralize it. The amount you add tells you the exact strenght of the original solution. Anyway, the plants respond to the first or second treatment or require further feedings before looking better, or dying. You need to give them a month or so before deciding that the response was adequate or inadequate.

New blooms: sweetspire.
Sweetspire, a compact shrub, tolerant of low light, with bottle-brush flowers.